Fever May Not Always Warrant a Trip to the Doctor
Sue Hubbard, M.D.
As children get older, they're more likely to develop viral infections, causing a fever, and it's easier to assess the severity of their illness
Monday's in the office are always busy, and one of the most predictable visits will be for a child who has had a fever over the weekend. Fevers and kids are like salt and pepper; they just go together. Why they seem to be worse or more frequent over the weekend, I don't know, but the doctor/mother in me thinks it is true.
The most frequently asked question is, "When do I need to see the doctor for a fever?" There is not one simple answer. Here are some simple rules of thumb for calling your pediatrician:
Any infant under two months of age with a fever needs to see the pediatrician immediately.
If a child over two months of age develops fever, irritability, poor feeding or lethargy, call and discuss the problem with your pediatrician or his/her nurse, and make an appointment as necessary.
As children get older, they're more likely to develop viral infections, causing a fever, and it's easier to assess the severity of their illness. Most children are cranky with fever, don't want to eat very much, may not sleep well, and just seem "off." Treat their fever with either acetaminophen or ibuprofen, according to the dosage chart for their weight. If your child seems to perk up after the fever comes down, plays for a while, eats a Popsicle or ice cream, etc., and has a little more energy, it's safe to simply watch them.
You can almost watch a child's fever return if they push away toys, refuse snacks and begin to whine. This may continue as the fever goes up and down throughout the day. Make sure the child is hydrated, even if they won't eat. I always say, "pull out that forbidden juice, soft drink, Popsicle or ice cream" when children are sick so they will drink or eat, and put it back once they're better. Sick treats are good for everyone.
If your child has a fever for more than three days, it's a good idea to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician, just for a thorough exam and reassurance. Most often, your child will be sent home with a diagnosis of viral infection and the fever will resolve quickly thereafter.
Remember, fever is your friend. The more you deal with it as a parent, the better you get at realizing that it's only a symptom and your child's best treatment may be your TLC.
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