How to attack a fever

Long time no blog. But here I am!

Until this year, we’d never really dealt with much sickness in our house. Colds here and there, and the occasional bout of stomach flu but on the whole nothing serious.

This week has hit our little family hard! Yeats and Jude, who are terribly robust little boys, both have had incredibly high fevers. Jude topped out at 103 and Yeats at 104. Hermione has been banished to my inlaws (who are awesome btw) in an effort to keep her well and out of the hospital. So far she’s not been hit. She’s on a special med that will raise her threshold for seizure just in case, but she can only stay on it for a few days.

Our sick little boy.

We’ve also seen what a typical febrile seizure looks like. Now I see why everyone freaked out about Hermione’s. Jude (3 years old) had one when his fever hit 103. We called the doctor, who he’d already seen earlier in the day, and since he didn’t have another one and his fever went down, we just kept him home.

Here’s what a typical febrile seizure looks like (from the National Institutes of Health):

  • The child may cry or moan.
  • The muscle tightening may last for several seconds, or longer.
  • The child will fall, if standing, and may pass urine.
  • The child may vomit or bite the tongue.
  • Sometimes children do not breathe, and may begin to turn blue.
  • The child’s body may then begin to jerk rhythmically. The child will not respond to the parent’s voice.
  • The seizure will stop within a few seconds or a few minutes (less than 10)

Jude’s looked like muscle tightening.  Both sides of his body – this weird flexing of his arms and legs that happened at the same time. He stayed pretty responsive and it only lasted for about 3 minutes total. We got him into a cool bath quickly and got the fever down, which stopped the seizure.

So how do you attack a high fever in a child over age 2?

  • Don’t panic. Even a fever of 104, if it can be brought down with medication, is ok. Don’t treat a low grade fever (less than 101) as an otherwise healthy child actually benefits from a low fever and will get better faster.
  • Give an initial double dose of acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol). We use the melt in your mouth pills, which are widely available. The boys love them.
  • Alternate acetaminophen and ibuprofen (brand name Motrin or Advil) every 3 hours. This is trick we learned in the PICU.
  • Cool washcloth alternating on the forehead, back of the neck, chest and back. This does absolute wonders.
  • Warm bath. It’s VERY important not to shock the system. If you plunge a child with a fever into a cool or cold bath you could cause serious complications. But a warm bath can be just the trick, and is also comforting to an achy child.

Fevers often spike in the middle of the night and come without warning. It’s essential that parents of young children keep children’s strength ibuprofen and acetaminophen on hand. We live miles from the nearest 24 hour drugstore, but even if it’s close by you don’t want to find yourself running out at 3am with a sick child at home. If you don’t have some in your medicine cabinet, pick it up TODAY.

Here’s what Dr. Sears has to say about how to treat a fever, in much more detail than what I’m offering

Most of all trust your instincts. Hermione gets ibuprofen at a fever of 99 because of the risk of a seizure. Jude started acting unlike himself several hours before his fever hit in the middle of the night.  Yeats started being snarky yesterday afternoon, and his fever spiked to 104 at 4am.  You know your kids best!

Categories: Childcare, Health | Leave a comment

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