Treating A Fever

When your preschooler is sick, you want to do all that you can to help him feel better. But figuring out the best course of action for treating a fever can be confusing. Is it better to do nothing and let it disappear on it's own or should you give your preschooler some medication to help it subside? Get the low down on whether or not you should treat your preschoolers fever.

The Basics
Generally speaking, a healthy person's body temperature is about 98.6°F (37°C) but this temperature does naturally rise and fall slightly throughout the day. When a person has a fever, though, this temperature will rise by one or two degrees (a mild fever) or jump a number of degrees (a high fever). While fevers are recognized as a common symptom of sickness, it is not always a bad thing when your child develops one. In fact, fevers may actually help to fight the infection that is causing the illness.

To find out whether or not your child has a fever, you can take her temperature in a number of ways. There is the traditional oral method (putting the thermometer in her mouth) or getting her temperature from the ear canal. You can also place the thermometer under her armpit or do a rectal temperature reading although not too many children like this method. The temperature results will vary very slightly according to where you take it.

The Equipment
A glass thermometer that contained mercury to mark the temperature used to be the most common device for taking temperatures. However, since glass can break and mercury has increasingly been recognized as a toxic substance, these bulb thermometers have begun to wane in popularity. But they are not completely gone just yet. Bulb thermometers that do not employ mercury to mark a persons temperature are still available these days.

Using this type of thermometer can be troublesome. Many require a trained eye to get an accurate reading. Additionally, it is necessary to shake the thermometer to get the indicator below 98.6°F before using it. If you are using a bulb thermometer to take your preschoolers temperature orally, make sure the bulb part is placed under the tongue and that it stays in his closed mouth for one to two minutes. You can also place the thermometer under his armpit for about four minutes. Make sure his chest and arm are bare and that he holds his arm down and close to his body so that you can get an accurate reading.

Digital thermometers are quickly replacing the traditional bulb thermometer for a variety of reasons. A digital thermometer is very easy to use. You simply press a button, place the thermometer in the ear canal, mouth, or armpit and you quickly get an accurate and easy-to-see digital evaluation. Many doctors favor these digital devices over the older bulb thermometers because it is not as cumbersome to get a correct reading. Additionally, despite being digital, these thermometers are inexpensive and can be found in most pharmacies.

When to Medicate
If your child is going to develop a fever, it will most likely occur when she first becomes ill. For flu suffers, a fever is usually the first symptom to develop while those with the common cold may develop a fever after a day or two. If the fever is mild and your preschooler is eating and sleeping well, it is probably best to not give him any medication. However, make sure you provide him with a lot of liquids. Vomiting, diarrhea and fever can all cause dehydration.

When a fever is high (101°F or more) and your preschooler is clearly sick and uncomfortable, administering some medication may be warranted. Acetaminophens, like TylenolÒ, are the most common type of medications used to treat children's fevers. Ibuprofen can also be given but it can upset or irritate your child's stomach. Aspirin should never be given to children for a fever as it can cause Reye's Syndrome.

There are many acetaminophens and ibuprofen medications designed specifically for children. It is best to buy these formulas when buying medication for your child. The dosage of the medication will vary according to your child's weight. Always carefully read and follow all the directions that come with the medication.

When to Call the Doctor
If your preschooler has had a fever of 100°F or more for more than three days or the fever hasn't come down with the use of medications, it's a good idea to call the doctor. Additionally, if she looks especially sick, develops severe headaches, stomach pains, fatigue, or respiratory troubles, it is time to make an appointment with her pediatrician. These symptoms could be signs of a bacterial infection and may require antibiotics.