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High Fevers: What to do When it’s too High

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Did you know high fevers are actually a good thing? A fever is your child’s immune system fighting a virus or bacteria. When your child’s fever gets high, it is killing those pesky bugs that are making them sick. When we give our kids medicine at the first sign of a fever, we are actually stopping the immune system from doing its job and causing the virus or bacteria to spread. However, there does come a point when a fever is too high or has lasted too long that it is harmful to your child’s body.

When High Fevers are too High

When your child’s temperature rises above 98.6 F, they have a fever. Low grade fevers of 99-101 F are not typically dangerous, but even if a low grade fever lasts longer than 24 hours, it is important to get it down to normal. A fever is too high when it reaches 103-106 F in a child, 102 F in an infant 6-24 months and 100.4 F in a newborn to 3 month old. High fevers can cause the following dangerous symptoms in a child:

  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Convulsions
  • Dehydration

Typically, if you rush your child to the hospital with a fever this high that has only been like that a few hours to a day, the doctor will send you home. If you sense your child is in an emergency situation, the fever is over 103 F, or your child is lethargic or unconscious, seek medical attention immediately. If your child’s fever is lower than 102 F and has not lasted long, you can use some of the following techniques to lower it:

Alternate Tylenol and Ibuprofen

I have found that children’s Ibuprofen is usually more effective at lowering high fevers than Tylenol, so that is usually my first go-to method. If my child’s fever persists, or goes down and spikes back up, I begin to alternate the Ibuprofen and Tylenol. Make sure you give your child the recommended dosage of any medication for their age and weight. Because you must wait 8 hours between Ibuprofen, doctors have recommended alternating the two medications. For example, if I gave my child Ibuprofen at 2 PM, if the fever spiked, I could then give Tylenol at 6 PM. At 10 PM, I could then go back to the Ibuprofen and continue alternating every 4 hours until the fever subsides.

Give Lukewarm Baths

You can, also, get high fevers down by cooling down the outside of the body. The tricky part with this is that you don’t want your child to be chilled. If your child starts to get goose bumps or is cold, it can cause the child’s temperature to increase. Therefore, a cold bath is not recommended. Instead, place your child in a bath that is neither too hot nor too cold until they feel cool to the touch or wish to get out.

Apply and Icepack to their Head or Neck

When my daughter spiked a fever of 105 F, I couldn’t wait for the medication to kick in, so I started her with a bath then applied cold compress to her head and neck while waiting for the medication to kick in. If a child’s head and brain gets too hot, it can cause hallucinations, imbalance, and brain damage. Try to get it down quickly with a cold compress.

Take Your Child to the Doctor if Symptoms Persist

If your child continues to have a low grade fever or a fever that spikes for more than 24-48 hours, it is important to take your child to the doctor. If you can’t get into the doctor, 24 hour clinics or the ER have been some of my best friends.

When a fever continues, it may be a sign of something more serious, so it is always important to seek medical advice when home treatments aren’t working.

Disclosure: The information provided is in no way an alternative to seeking medical advice from your doctor. It is simply intended to give additional advice on every day, non-emergent situations from a mother who is a licensed R.N. If your situation is urgent, please contact your doctor immediately (or 911 if an emergency).

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