Children and Fever Medications

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A fever is the body’s way of fighting off infection. In most cases, fever is a normal response and is not dangerous. When a child is sick, his immune system releases chemicals that increase the body temperature. Infants and children sometimes run a fever after getting immunizations. Low-grade fevers can usually treated effectively at home with over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Consult with your child’s doctor for the best way to bring down a fever.


Types

Acetaminophen is a fever reducer that is usually effective and can be given to a child every four hours. Giving a child who has a high fever an initial double dose of the medication can bring the fever down more quickly. Parents should then follow with regular dosing. Discuss your plans with your child’s doctor.

Ibuprofen generally works better for higher fevers. The medication can be given every six hours and is safe and effective for infants as young as 2 months. Although, in most cases, you should give a child only one of these two fever-reducing medications, it is safe to alternate between the two every three hours.

Dosing

Medication safety requires giving children fever medicine in the correct doses and at the right time. Always read the label and check with your child’s doctor if you are confused. Recheck the numbers so that you don’t give a child more or less medicine than you should. Directions on the package will instruct you on the amount of medicine to give for your child’s age and weight. Never give a child more medicine because her fever is high. Dosages are based on how much is safe and effective and not on how sick a child is.

Alternative Treatments

When a child is unable to keep down medication because of vomiting, acetaminophen suppositories are available OTC. You can also soak your child in a lukewarm tub or give him a sponge bath to help get a high fever down more quickly. Give your child plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

Disadvantages

Giving a child medication to treat a low-grade fever may actually prolong the duration of a viral infection. MayoClinic.com points out that fever can help the body fight a virus. Your child’s pediatrician may prescribe other medications to treat the cause of the fever.

Side Effects

Prolonged use of acetaminophen can cause liver or kidney damage. Overdoses can be fatal; therefore, don’t give your child more medication if you can’t get his fever down. Give a child acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lower a fever only if your pediatrician recommends it.

Warning

Do not give aspirin to a child 12 years old or younger who has a fever. The BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board warns that aspirin has been linked to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious disease that usually affects children ages 4 through 12. Studies have found that giving children aspirin to treat fevers associated with viral infections, such as a cold, the flu or chicken pox, are at higher risk of getting Reye’s syndrome. Prompt diagnosis of the disease is essential because if Reye’s goes untreated, it can lead to brain damage, liver failure and even death.

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