In taking care of children, every parent will come across the situation of having to deal with a feverish child. As young children are unable to tell their parents exactly how they feel, it can be very frustrating to know what to do especially at nights when medical advises are not readily available. In order to manage this situation rationally and effectively, some understanding of the cause of fever is necessary. Fever is one of the defence mechanisms used by the body in dealing with invasion of disease causing organisms. Therefore it is important to realise that it is an important function helping to restoring the body to health. Having said this, it should not be forgotten that it is still one of the signs of warning indicating the existence of illness.
Therefore in dealing with a feverish child, it is imperatively to have some idea on the cause of the particular child’s fever. As the causes of fever range from the trivial “cold” to fatal illnesses like meningitis and pneumonia, a feverish child is justifiably always a worry to the parents. However, there are guiding principles which can assist parents to at least have an idea on the urgency of the child’s illness.
Firstly, it should be recognised that fever itself is not a disease, it is a sign forming part of the total picture indicating a disease. Therefore, it is necessary to take into consideration of the total picture of the child’s illness including the child’s general conditions such as mood, activities and discomfort as well as the child’s basic body functions such as eating, drinking, elimination and rest/sleep. The existence or absence of disturbances of the child’s observable well being and normal body functions can provide some indication of urgency of the child’s illness.
Secondly, it of essential to know what is the cause of the child’s fever as definitive action will be based on this knowledge. The making of diagnosis is obviously a professional function and should be based not only on positive identification but also negative elimination of other possibilities of fever.
Thirdly, irrespective of the causes of fever, appropriate general care to alleviate the effect of fever and maintain optimal body functions is important to avoid complication induced by increased body temperature from whatever causes. These include appropriate hydration, avoidance of excessive body covering, anti fever medications and physical anti fever measures. The ability to handle febrile convulsion should be a part of parenting education.
In summary fever in children is mostly due to minor infections. However, missing the occasional serious illness can be disastrous. Appropriate care in support of basic body functions is helpful to alleviate discomforts and providing a sound basis for treatment but accurate diagnosis is essential for correct and safe management of the feverish child. In the complete management of every feverish child, competent professional input t is obviously vital. As clinical knowledge, skills and their application are not learnt overnight, it is quite impossible for parents to be in the position to make decision themselves. Therefore the above information can only be used a source of knowledge and should not be used as “guide for management or treatment”.