It happens to every parent: the digitized numbers on the fancy thermometer screen flash into triple digits and you immediately dive for the phone to call the pediatrician, your mother, maybe the National Guard.
But most fevers aren’t dangerous at all, says Dr. Ruben Rucoba of Wheaton Pediatrics. In fact, fevers are often a good sign that the immune system is fighting off an infection or some other illness. Here’s what you need to know to cure your fever phobia once and for all.
Temperature ain’t nothin’ but a number
A fever of 100.1 seems much scarier than a fever of 99.9, but don’t get too caught up in the triple-digit panic. Body temperatures have to reach 100.5 degrees or higher in order to be considered a fever, and Dr. Rucoba says children can withstand higher body temperatures, up to 107 degrees before any damage is done to the body or brain. “Many people think that if a fever gets too high, they need to do something or something horrible will happen,” Rucoba says. “That is not the case.”
The illnesses that cause fevers can be serious, but fevers in and of themselves are rarely harmful. “You don’t need to worry about the number on the thermometer,” he says. “You need to worry about your child, what his other symptoms are and how he’s feeling.”
When to worry
Fevers accompanied with more worrisome symptoms, such as headaches, abdominal pain, serious rashes or vomiting are cause for concern. So are fevers that last longer than two days and feverish infants who don’t stop crying, says Rucoba.
What to do
A few simple home remedies the good doctor suggested include a cool washcloth to the forehead or giving him or her cold juice or a popsicle. If it’s a higher temperature fever, an adequate dose of Tylenol, Motrin or Advil can bring the heat down a few degrees, which is enough to make your child feel a lot better, says Rucoba.
This doesn’t mean you can’t go see the doctor if your kid has a fever. Fevers can be uncomfortable, and doctors can provide some relief. But maybe you’ll think twice before lunging at the phone to speed dial your pediatrician (no judgment), calmly remembering you can handle this fever business.