Keeping Your Kids Safe from Complications of Fever

Fever is the state of having a body temperature that is a degree above the normal body temperature. Fever can occur anytime, usually accompanying an illness or infection. Children are especially susceptible to developing a fever because their immune system is still prematurely developed. But what exactly is a fever?


Fever is actually a normal response of the body to an existing infection. It is a defense mechanism by the immune system that attempts to kill the infective agents through high body temperature. Most infective agents, such as bacteria, live and spread comfortably under normal body temperature. If the body’s temperature is elevated to a particular level, the body may be able to kill off the bacteria and reduce or stop the spread of infection. This defense mechanism is controlled by the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain that is responsible for thermoregulation through the release of hormones in the body.


Fever can be caused or triggered by the following:


  • Viral or bacterial infection
  • Prolonged heat exposure or heat exhaustion
  • Sunburn
  • Inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis
  • Malignant tumor
  • As side effect of some hypertensive and seizure medications
  • Vaccinations or immunizations


Although fever is a natural process, it could be dangerous for children because their thermoregulation mechanisms are not yet well-developed, thus making it difficult for their bodies to set a temperature boundary and cope with fever complications. If a fever is allowed to progress for a prolonged period, it may lead to serious complications that could impair or debilitate a child.


In order to properly manage fever in children, you must first understand or identify the cause. If the cause is an infection, the best remedy to prevent the occurrence and recurrence of fever is by resolving the infection through antibiotic or anti-viral therapy. Fever medications, which are medical drugs used to lower body temperature, are also administered to supplement the antibiotics and help reduce or stop fever progression. While your child is under therapy, it is important to monitor your child’s fever by taking his temperature every hour to ensure that your child’s body temperature does not reach a critical level. Fever complications usually occur when the body temperature reaches above 39 degrees Celsius.


The following are the common complications of fever:


  • Hallucinations or dementia
  • Severe dehydration
  • Febrile seizures (fever-induced convulsions)


Complicated high-grade fever can cause a child to hallucinate because the extreme body heat causes the brain’s fluids to deplete, thus affecting the health and communication of the brain cells. Severe dehydration may occur because the high temperature causes the body fluids to evaporate. Convulsions or seizures are also imminent if the fever is not resolved and the nervous system is affected, thus resulting to loss of consciousness and involuntary, repetitive muscle contractions.


When your child has febrile seizures, you should:


  • Lay your child down on the floor or to prevent him from falling and obtaining fall injuries.
  • Position your child on his side or stomach to prevent his airways from being blocked by his tongue and or aspirate oral secretions into his lungs.
  • Remove any sharp or hard objects around your child to prevent further physical injuries.
  • Loosen any tight clothing to allow maximum lung expansion.
  • Hold your child and support his head throughout the seizure to prevent him from obtaining seizure-induced injuries.
  • Let your child convulse until the seizure is over. Gripping your child tightly in an attempt to stop the seizure will only harm your child’s body.


If febrile seizures last longer than ten minutes, your child should be taken to the nearest emergency medical facility. If a high-grade fever is left to progress without seeking medical intervention, permanent brain damage can occur and debilitate your child.



Kids and Fevers

It is normal for children to have a slightly higher temperature than adults, especially since they are more easily affected by changes in temperature outside the house. The normal body temperature for kids is around 37°C to 37.9°C. Any higher than that is already considered a fever.


But even when a child’s temperature reaches 38°C, parents should not be quick to panic. Remember that kids will experience a fever sooner or later. And while a rise from the normal body temperature for kids could mean any number of things, chances are, it could also simply mean a slight infection and nothing to be afraid of.


To Call or Not to Call the Doctor


Because the normal body temperature for kids is slightly higher than that of an adult, first-time parents may be quick to panic when they notice a change in their child’s warmth.


Before you rush your child to a clinic, remember that a person’s body temperature changes several times in one day. This means that your child may simply be undergoing a change in temperature to adapt to the rise or drop of temperature in his surroundings.


Below is a list of things to consider before calling your doctor:


  1. Has your child had a fever for more than five days? If no, then do not panic. This can be completely normal, especially if your child continues to be active and does not seem to lose his appetite. If yes, then call your doctor so he can check if there are other underlying causes for the illness.
  2. What is your kid’s average temperature? Although the normal body temperature for kids is 37°C to 37.9°C, a slightly higher temperature is normal for children from three months to three years old. A body temperature of 40°C and above is a definite cause of concern though. Call the doctor immediately if this happens.
  3. Was your child recently immunized? If yes, then a fever should be expected, because this is the body’s way of adjusting to the vaccine. The normal body temperature for kids becomes affected as the immune system works overtime. If the fever lasts for more than twenty-four hours, though, it is best that you bring your kid back to the clinic for a checkup.
  4. Do you feel uncomfortable? If you are really worried about your child’s condition, then contact your doctor or nurse and tell her about it. It may be nothing, or it can be something equally important. Trust your parental instincts since you know your child the best.


A Note on Seizures


A child who suffers from a high fever may experience febrile seizures. This can come in the form of either intense shaking or jerking movements of different body parts, or simply passing out or becoming unconscious.


Not all children experience seizures (only about 2 to 4 percent of kids under five years old do), but just in case your child is part of this number, below are some things you can do whenever your child has an attack:


  1. Do not panic. It is best that you have your presence of mind intact so you can attend to your child’s needs immediately.
  2. Turn your child to his side to minimize the effects of the shaking, or to avoid choking when he falls unconscious.
  3. Do not put anything in your kid’s mouth. This may only cause him to choke or have difficulty in breathing.
  4. Call your doctor or nurse, or bring your kid to the nearest clinic or hospital, if the seizure lasts more than five minutes.