Fever. The real facts about it.
Fever is one of the most common symptoms among babies and children but also one of the most unspecific, so when parents face fever, there's always a chance of being dealing with both, something easy to resolve as well a real, severe sickness; thus it's not a surprise a lot of myths and beliefs surrounding fever.
In fact, fever is so frightening that myths exceed reality, so it's good to clarify some concepts in order to diminish parents' concern and allow them to think clearer about what they are facing at when their babies or small children have fever.
1. Fever is a defense mechanisms, not a sickness
Even when always associated to some kind of sickness, fever is just a symptom but not a disease, moreover, fever is the consequence of a lot of substances released to the bloodstream by the immune system cells to fight infections (or any other insult); then having fever is not bad at all because the body is taking actions to defend itself from a disease; the problem is that during that fight the baby will feel very bad, so lowering fever is necessary to make the patient feeling more comfortable.
2. Not all temperature raises are fever
Body temperature might raise a little bid above the normal in many circumstances, from just a minor flu up to exercise, but it's not possible to talk about fever unless body temperature climbs over 38.5 ºC (101.5 ºF).
Below this limit, temperature raises are called "hyperthermia" and usually are a minor concern, but when temperature exceeds that frontier it begins to be called fever and usually medical advice is required.
3. Never estimate fever using your hands
It's usual for parents and grandparent "to estimate" children's fever by touching their faces or hans, and even when this could give a gross idea about body temperature, certainly is the less accurate method because it doesn't allow to determine if core temperature raised over the 38.5 ºC (101.5 ºF) to be called fever.
Instead the use of a thermometer is mandatory to clearly assess body temperature.
4. Fever doesn't cause seizures
Fever itself doesn't cause seizures, in fact less than 5% of children suffering from fever will experience a seizure, the so called "febrile seizure", a frightening clinical entity but fortunately unccommon.
When this occurs, the problem is not the fever itself, but the sudden temperature rise; in fact, no matter how elevated the temperature is and how long is sustained, there won't be seizures unless the temperature changes dramatically on a brief period of time; that's what causes the seizure! Leaving not time to the body to get adapted to the new temperature.
5. It's critical to find the cause
Since fever is not a disease but a symptom, it becomes vital to identify fever cause in order to treat it properly, otherwise, lowering the fever will remove the symptom but the underlying condition will persist.
On this regard infections are the most frequent cause of fever, most of them or viral origin, thus a deep clinical evaluation is necessary to identify the cause and treat it properly.
Certainly it's hard to deal with fever, but the key is avoid panic, control body temperature properly and find medical advice to identify the cause, treat it and avoid complications.
In the case of febrile seizures, the best option is to use fever medication to slower or contain temperature raise, but in case of being impossible, if the child or baby develops a seizure the best behaviour is to keep calm, try to secure airway and call emergency services.
In most of cases the seizure will end spontaneously, without any sequelae but there's still the need of proper medical care and investigation.
Fever will be there more than once, so learning as much as possible to deal with it will be a valuable tool to face this situation properly!