A fever is when the body’s temperature is higher than normal because of an infection. Normal body temperature is under 38 C. The fever is usually caused by a virus or bacteria. Fever is a way in which the body fights infection. A fever is not dangerous. It does not always indicate a serious illness.
The signs of fever
The body responds to fever by increasing the heart rate, breathing rate and blood circulation to the skin. This is how the body tries to reduce the heat caused by fever. A child with fever will feel hot and look flushed.
Some ways to deal with fever
Here are some ways to make children more comfortable:
- Dress your child in light clothing
- Give drinks of clear fluid (like water)
- Give paracetamol medicine (for example, Panadol, Dymadon, Tempra) in the correct dose every four hours (but not more than 4 doses in a 24-hour period). Note – do not give regular paracetamol medicine for more than 24 hours without seeking advice from your doctor.
- Keep your child cool
- If your child is aged three months or younger, take them to your doctor
Don’t give your child a cold bath
Give a lukewarm bath or sponge. Do not give a cold bath. Cold water cools the skin but does not lower the body temperature.
Convulsions are sometimes called ‘fits’
Sometimes a fever can lead to a convulsion. Convulsions are also known as fits or seizures. A convulsion is when a child with a fever suddenly jerks or twitches. They may appear to have difficulty in breathing and becoming unconscious.
What to do if your child has a convulsion
Convulsions are rarely serious. The fit usually lasts for a few minutes and sometimes up to 15 minutes. If your child has a convulsion you should:
- Lie the child on their side, not on their back.
- Check that the child does not breathe in vomit.
- If the fit lasts more than five minutes call an ambulance. Telephone 000.
See a doctor after the fit has stopped
Your child will be drowsy after the convulsion is over – keep them on their side and stay with them. Take your child to a doctor as soon as the fit has stopped. Do not wait until the next day.
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