Knowing when to call the doctor

February 28, 2011 2:59:16 PM PST
It's often called fever phobia, parents who react with fear when a sick child's temperature climbs above normal, even by just a little bit sometimes.

Whether a parent takes a child's temperature with a rectal thermometer, the most accurate way, or under the arm, anything over the normal of 98.6 can scare the calmest of parents. One mother we talked to begins to worry for temperatures above 99 degrees.

The Pediatric Emergency Center at St. Luke's Hospital is fever central for infants and toddlers, and for first time moms such as Kathleen Castillo.

Castillo brought in 8-month-old Kaesun for chest congestion and is always on the lookout for fever when Kaesun doesn't seem himself.

"I take his temp and check again in an hour and if it hasn't gone down I give him some medicine and if it still hasn't gone down I take in right to the emergency room," said Castillo.

A fever, typically, when body temperature is above 98.6 degrees is only a symptom of an illness such as a bad cold or bronchitis and can actually helps the body fight off an infection.

"Fever itself is not dangerous if the child is appearing well, if the child is not toxic looking, and if child is playing eating well, playing well, sleeping well," said Dr. Celeena Daniel a board certified pediatrics emergency specialist at St. Luke's Hospital.

If a feverish child is lethargic, irritable, not eating, or the temperature is above 105 degrees, it's time to treat the fever and call the doctor immediately.

"Treatments of a fever don't always have to be with medication. Try a room temperature bath or wiping the child down with room temp water, and taking off clothing, take off jackets and blankets," said Dr. Daniel.

Children's Motrin, Ibuprofen, Children's Tylenol, along with other acetaminophen drugs can lower fever. Babies six months old or less with any fever should be reported to the doctor. Otherwise, if a child behaves normally despite fever, parents can relax.

"The general appearance of the child is more important than the height of the fever," said Dr. Daniel.

Treating the fever is about making the child more comfortable, not bringing the temperature down to normal. Seizures from fever may have more to do with family history of seizures than how high is the fever. Seizures can occur at temperatures less than 102 degrees.