Fever......I talk about it every day, even in the summer months, but during the winter I sound like a skip on a CD explaining the “facts that we know” about fever.There are so many falsehoods surrounding fever, and many have been passed around for years.
To begin with, FEVER is simply a symptom, it is not a disease. We pediatricians define a fever as greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Now I know many people say, “but my child’s body temperature runs lower than 98.6, therefore they have a fever when their body temperature is 99.8 degrees.”. What about, “my thermometer must be off because my child felt hot and the thermometer only read 99.9 degrees.” Yes, these are often heard statements by parents in my office, who are convinced that their child has a fever, even when they don’t. That is not to say that you might not feel great when you have a cold and your body temp is 99.8, but you don’t really have a fever.
Fever frightens parents, especially with young children and over the course of parenting most of us figure out that fever is not “scary”. I sometimes say “look at fever as your friend” as this means that your child’s immune system is working. When you are sick and all of those white cells go to work, they release all of their “disease fighting chemicals” which ramps up the body to fight the infection and fever develops. See, it is just a symptom of many different things going on within our body when we are sick. Other symptoms, especially at this time of year include, cough, congestion, sore throats, vomiting, diarrhea. What really stinks is when your child has ALL of these symptoms at one time.....they just feel yucky!
Another myth, fever causes brain damage and that “the higher the fever the greater chance of brain damage”. This is NOT true. High fever usually makes your child feel worse, but their brains are just fine. Yes, febrile seizures do sometimes occur (my own son had them), but even a febrile seizure does not cause brain damage. Febrile seizures are scary for a parent to watch, but they may occur with any degree of fever. That is to say a seizure may occur with a fever of 101 degrees or 104 degrees, doesn’t really make a difference. A febrile seizure does not necessarily mean your child is any sicker than another child who does not have a seizure with their fever. I know sounds crazy, but very true.
This is just the first part of the fever story.....more fever facts to come this week.