This is a really common question, though not always voiced.
It’s never wrong to go to the GP or hospital to seek advice, but if you know what symptoms and signs to look for, you may be able to judge the best option for your child and yourself.
Most fevers in children are due to a virus. The symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, sore throat, sore ears, a cough and a runny nose. Bacterial infections can sometimes occur, secondary to the initial virus. These include acute middle ear infections, tonsillitis, some pneumonias, osteomyelitis (infection in the bone), urinary tract infections, meningitis and many more. All of these infections can be associated with a variety of rashes.
Signs to look out for are:
- A reduction in the number of wet nappies (less than half the usual number in a 12 to 24-hour period).
- Shortness of breath.
- Extreme irritability or lethargy.
- Pain not responding to simple measures, such as paracetamol.
- Refusal of food and drink.
- Seizures (uncommon).
- A sudden deterioration in the child’s condition.
My rule of thumb is that any child under six months with a fever and no obvious cause for it should be seen by the GP in the first 24 hours, and then possibly daily until it leaves, or sooner if the child’s condition deteriorates. If the child is aged six to 12 months, but is eating, drinking and has none of the worrying signs, allow 48 hours before taking them to the GP, and for older children, about three days. The fever in viral infections is the immune response of the body to kill the virus.
With a respiratory infection/cold/mild influenza, a GP will usually examine the child and discuss simple measures to keep the child comfortable as their immune system fights off the virus. Antibiotics aren’t effective against viral infections.
This article appeared in The Ticket in the March 2015 issue of CHILD Mags