Being a parent is tough work. From raising your children with good ethics, to keeping them fed, sheltered, and healthy, all while trying to enjoy some semblance of leisure in your own life (for the lucky ones, anyway), it’s a lot for anybody to manage. On top of all that comes the great disruptor: childhood illness.
There are varying degrees of illness and fever that parents need to be mindful of. Children are strong and resilient, but knowing when symptoms are serious or minor can be difficult for parents who aren’t qualified medical professionals. In this article, we look at common fever symptoms parents may come across, and whether they mean it’s time to worry, or to relax.
Headaches are a common symptom many children may experience when ill with a fever. Thankfully, most of the time a headache will be minor, so this symptom can sit in the “relax” category.
Your child’s headache might be attributed to a head cold that they may simultaneously have with their fever. If this is the case, the child will likely be displaying other symptoms such as a cough, sneezing, congestion or a sore throat. In this case, the best bet may be to monitor their symptoms and give them a sore throat remedy you can try at home.
Temperature above 38 degrees
If your child has a temperature of 38 degrees or higher, this is definitely time to take action. If you are unsure whether your child’s temperature is beyond a healthy reading, you can test using the following thermometers:
- Rectal: This goes in the child’s anus and is the most accurate reading for children under 3.
- Oral: This thermometer goes in the mouth and is the most accurate reading for children around 5 years old.
- Axillary: This reading is taken under the arm, and is the least accurate, but least invasive. (1)
When no thermometer is available, if a child is hot to the touch this should still be taken seriously. When extreme temperatures are discovered, it’s recommended that your child receives medical assistance as soon as possible. (2)
Dehydration is a very common symptom of fever in children. Thankfully, most of the time when a child is dehydrated during a fever, this is easily treated by parents and won’t require urgent medical attention.
To treat this, it’s recommended that you give your child more fluid to drink. If water alone seems ineffective, oral rehydration therapy (sometimes known as oral rehydration salts) that includes sugar, salts, potassium and sodium can help to rehydrate and replenish minerals your child may be missing. (3)
Shivering is an automatic response of the human immune system to infections and cold environments. The rapid contraction of muscles caused by shivering can create heat. This is like a self-defence mechanism against infections as they struggle to survive at temperatures above 37 degrees. (4)
If your child is shivering uncontrollably, then this is a sign that you might need to take them to the local children’s hospital. Be sure to wrap them in a warm blanket and give them plenty of fluids on the trip there.
Tiredness and weakness
If your child feels tired and weak, this is not a symptom of fever where alarm immediately needs to be raised. If a child is so weak they cannot walk, then there is more cause for concern. But at the end of the day, tiredness is a symptom of most illnesses, so unless it is debilitating in this instance, fluid and protein consumption should have a positive impact on your child’s state.
Sweating when you have a fever is quite normal, though excessive sweating in a child suffering from fever can be a sign of something more severe. It should be noted that sweat is a defence mechanism against excess heat, so it’s not inherently a bad thing. But the old idea that “sweating it out” is a plausible cure for illness is not substantiated by research. (5)
However, with COVID-19 far from over, its symptoms and related illnesses are still a concern. Sweats, tiredness and muscle aches are all dual symptoms of fevers and COVID-19, so if any symptoms are discovered, they should be managed with a degree of caution.
For many parents, children are the most important thing in the world and their wellbeing is their highest priority. If your child gets a fever, it’s important to know what the proportionate response is to their symptoms. Knowing how to diagnose a serious or minor case, as well as having the ability to read temperatures and rehydrate your child will help ensure you’re doing everything you can to help them recover faster and stronger.
- “How to Take Your Child’s Temperature”, Source: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/take-temperature.html
- “Managing the child with a fever”, Source: https://europepmc.org/article/med/26514056
- “Dehydration”, Source: https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Dehydration/#:~:text=The%20best%20treatment%20for%20mild,replace%20fluids%20and%20body%20salts.
- “What Causes Shivering with Fever?”, Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/shiver-with-fever#causes
- “Sweating Out a Fever: Does It Work and Is It Safe?”, Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/sweating-out-a-fever
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