A fever is one of the most common reasons parents bring their children to the emergency room. Those parents have all kinds of great questions about childhood fevers and what they should do the next time one strikes.
We asked Kelly Levasseur, D.O., Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Beaumont Children’s, to share some facts about fevers that often surprise parents in the specialized pediatric emergency units at the Beaumont hospitals in Royal Oak and Troy.
- A fever means your child’s body is doing its job. Having a fever makes your child feel bad and as a parent, that’s something you immediately want to fix. But, what a fever really means is that your child’s body is functioning as it’s supposed to. The increased temperature reading on your thermometer means the body is recognizing and starting to fight off an infection.
- The fever’s “degree” doesn’t matter as much as you might think. There is no one specific degree at which a child’s fever necessarily requires a trip to the emergency room if other symptoms are not present. Even a fever coming on suddenly or “spiking” by increasing especially quickly isn’t always a reason for an immediate emergency room visit. However, some children may experience a seizure as the first sign of a rapid increase in temperature and a seizure is a reason to get your child to the emergency room right away.
- Breathing and urination rates matter more than you might think. Pneumonia and dehydration are concerns when it comes to fevers in children. If you notice your child breathing fast for 20-30 minutes, particularly while the fever is down from its peak, contact your pediatrician or get to an emergency room for evaluation. The amount of urine your child is passing should also be monitored closely. Little to no urine in 10 to 12 hours is a sign of dehydration and may also require a call to your pediatrician or a visit to the emergency room.
- Products like Tylenol and Motrin don’t cure fevers. There is no way to cure a fever. Fever reducers like Tylenol and Motrin simply reduce the temperature by a degree or sometimes more, which will help the child feel more comfortable, but the fever will come back as long as the infection that caused it is still present. If your child’s body is unable to rid itself of the fever after five days, medical intervention may be necessary.
- Trust your pediatrician more than the box. Dosing recommendations on the back of a box of Tylenol, Motrin or a similar fever reducing product are based on general weight ranges. They are not exact. The recommendations on the box will most often be close to the proper dose for your child, but for a precise answer, you should contact your pediatrician. Most pediatricians will tell you that Motrin should not be given to children under 6 months old, but Tylenol can be given in appropriately dosed amounts for children of any age. Again, talk to your pediatrician for advice specific to your child.
Thinking ahead is a key component to being prepared for a potential emergency situation, whether it involves a fever or not. Think about which emergency room you would prefer for your family.
Is it a dedicated pediatric emergency room with technology, specialists and programs just for kids? Is it important to you that if your child needs to be admitted he or she stay close to home at the hospital connected to the emergency room? Considering these important questions in advance of an emergency will help you remain calm and make the best possible decision for your child.
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
Planning ahead and educating yourself will help you make good decisions when it comes to childhood emergencies. But, don’t underestimate the value of trusting your instincts either. If you feel your child needs to get to the emergency room, there’s a good chance you’re right. You know your child the best. You’re the best one to make that decision.