How to Care for a Child with a Fever
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How to Care for a Child with a Fever

Care of a child with a fever, recommendations from a nurse. Fluids for a child with a fever.

You wake up to a screaming child at 1 am, as a mother you rush to their bedside and pick them up. No matter their age, as a mother you rapidly assess the situation to see what is the matter. Is it a nightmare that woke them from sleep, are they sick, or do they have a fever. Without a thermometer in hand, a mother can tell if her child has a fever. As a mother you have touched your child thousands of times and can tell what their normal temperature is. Unfortunately, children can develop a fever for many reasons and some without explanation. Your job is to try to make them feel better.

The obvious thing for a mother, is to give a fever reducing medication for the child's age or weight. But then what can you do? Fluids, fluids, fluids... A child with a fever can become dehydrated very quickly and when they become severely dehydrated it can mean a trip to the ER for invasive procedures in a scary environment. My advice to patients and their families is to give the child as much oral fluids in any way you can. I once nursed my 1 and 1/2 year old through a 12 hour fever of 104, who was unwilling to take oral fever reducers. If a child cannot take oral fever reducers than there are rectal suppositories that can be given which are available at most pharmacies. I tried everything from juice to freeze pops, but he wouldn't take anything. I ended up crushing freeze pops and spoon feeding them to him. Finally, 12 hours into the illness, the fever broke! The point is, if a child has a fever, try to get fluids in them any way you can. I recommend giving them different cups or letting them drink from a pop can, it doesn't matter how you get them to drink, just that they do.

Another thing I often see as an ER nurse, is parents bringing their child in with a fever and not giving them fever reducing medication because they want to "prove" to us that they have a fever. There is no need to do this, we believe you if you say your child had a fever of 101, or whatever it may be. Give your child with a fever medication, it will make them feel better and will not be detrimental to the visit to the doctor.

If you feel that your child needs to be seen by a doctor, bring them in! This is just some advice to take care of a child with a fever at home. Obviously if the child has other symptoms as well, like cough/cold symptoms or has a source of possible infection, they need to see a doctor. If your child has not urinated for 8-12 hours, is not taking oral liquids, is lethargic (I refer to this as "rag doll") then they need to come in and be seen right away!

One last piece of advice, most hospitals or clinics have a phone line or a nurse you can talk to at any time to ask questions or advice. My recommendation is, a phone call is free so why not give it a try!

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