Mild Fever: To treat or not to treat?
Mild fever, by itself, is not harmful or dangerous. In fact, a fever is your body trying to fight off an infection. A fever occurs when your body’s internal thermostat rises above its normal temperature of 37°C. Common causes of a fever in children include infections, immunizations and overdressing (especially in infants and newborns).
In the past, treatment of a child’s fever was based on body temperature alone. Recently, recommendations on the treatment of a fever state that it should be based on a combination of body temperature and child’s overall condition. There is no evidence that a mild fever is harmful. Additionally, treating a fever with medications does not reduce the risk of seizures that are caused by the fever itself.
In children, fevers less than 38.9°C often do not require treatment. At this temperature, only treat if you believe it will make your child feel more comfortable. If the child is playing, drinking well, and alert, there is no need to treat with medication. Even if your little one is refusing to eat food, but is otherwise doing well don’t worry about treating, as it is common to not feel like eating when you have an infection that is causing a fever. Just simply monitor for any changes in symptoms or behaviour.
In infants and children under the age of 5 we recommend measuring temperature using a digital thermometer under their armpit, this is called taking their axillary temperature. This method is the least invasive and easiest to carry out in this age group. Normal axillary temperature is 34.7-37.3°C. Any temperature over 37.3°C is a fever. A temperature of 37.3-38.9°C is a mild or low grade fever and parents should use their judgement on whether or not to treat based on the child’s other symptoms.
Contact your pharmacist or another health care provider for advice on how to treat a fever or for advice on if they should be seen by a health care professional. If you are concerned for your child’s health or if any of the signs/symptoms listed below develop contact your doctor immediately. (If it is outside of normal operating hours, contact Healthlink at 1-866-408-5465 to speak with a nurse for help you determine if you should take your child to emergency)
- If your child is less than 6 months old and has a fever
- Has had a fever for more than 72 hours
- Has a fever that does not respond to fever reducing medications
- Is excessively cranky, fussy or irritable
- Is excessively sleepy, lethargic or does not respond
- Is persistently wheezing or coughing
- Has a fever and a rash or any other signs that worry you
If you have any questions about the management of fever in children speak to your pharmacist today! Your pharmacist can help you determine if you should treat your child’s fever. They will also help you select the right medication at the correct dose for your child.