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
- 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.