When our child is burning up with fever, it sets off a (normal, healthy) alarm in our brains. Of course we worry - we care about them! What we really want to do is to FIX IT. The problem is...
It does make them (and us) feel better... Temporarily... Til the fever comes back... UGH! More alarms!
This fear alarm is a deep-in-your-primitive-brain emotional reaction. It's very real & it's meant to wake you up and put you into action.
It makes sense. After all, for most of human history, fever in a child could be a really, really bad thing. Modern medicine is pretty modern - it's only been about 80 years that we could get an antibiotic for our child (if they need it)!
So today, we can feel the fear, thank it for waking us up, and put our 21st century brains to work on the problem.
Fever is a key part of the the body's amazing defense mechanism against infection. It's almost always associated with self-limiting infections that the body gets rid of on it's own.
Fact: Viruses are 10X more likely to cause illness than bacteria.
"Fever" isn't just feeling warm. Fever is technically 100.4 F or higher rectally, but most children over 12 months would rather you use a screening method like ear, forehead or underarm.
Fever up to 104 F in children is considered "within normal".
Good news - there's a thermostat in our brains! It's set to 98.6-ish (97-99 is 'normal'). Infections set off immune system signals (cytokines) that quickly circulate to the brain. The thermostat is programmed to turn up the heat when it senses these signals.
The germs really hate that heat. They start dying, the signals decrease and the temp goes down => aka "breaking the fever".
It is NOT a bad thing. Scary, yes. Bad, no. It's part of the immune system doing it's good job.
Fevers DO NOT cause Seizures.
"Febrile Seizures" are caused by the rapid rise in temperature in susceptible children 6 years old & under. This often happens at the onset of fever - before you even know your child is getting sick - even at a temp of 101!
Fevers DO NOT cause Brain Damage.
It takes a temperature over 107 degrees, caused by an injury or being trapped in a hot place.
And yet, 20% of parents today believe the myth that fever under 104 can cause brain damage or seizures.
If you are one of them, we understand. It comes from all the messages and experiences you've had. But now you can learn a different story. Take a deep breath and tell your alarm: Thank you for sharing. I'm going to apply 21st century thinking to this fever!
Fevers can still feel scary - and in a small number of cases, it can be a sign of more serious condition. Here's what to watch for. Contact your pediatrician ASAP if you see these Concerning Signs:
***We are doctors, but we are NOT YOUR doctors. Information included here is for educational purposes only and should NOT be construed as medical advice. Please call YOUR child's doctor for further guidance.***