Use digital thermometers for fever

Digital thermometer and dual sensor which measures the sebum and moisture level of the skin.
Digital thermometer and dual sensor which measures the sebum and moisture level of the skin.PHOTO: ST FILE

Q How do I know if my child has fever and is this a common condition? What are the causes and symptoms of fever?

Can I help my child to feel better with home remedies and when should I take him to see a doctor?

A Normal body temperature varies with age, general health, activity level, and time of day.

Temperature is highest between the late afternoon and early evening, and lowest between midnight and early morning.

A fever is a body temperature that is higher than normal.

Normal body temperature ranges between 36.4 deg C and 37.5 deg C.

Most paediatricians consider a temperature above 38 deg C as a sign of a fever.

A fever is usually a sign that the body is fighting an illness or infection. Infections are usually due to viruses which can clear up without treatment but occasionally, it is a sign of serious bacterial illness.

Your child may feel warm, appear flushed, sweat or be more thirsty than usual.

Some children feel fine when they have a fever.

Most children will have other symptoms of the illness that is causing the fever. Examples include earache, cough, a sore throat, rash or a stomachache.

Always use a digital thermometer to check your child's temperature. While other methods for taking your child's temperature are available, such as pacifier thermometers or fever strips, they are not recommended at this time.

The following are three types of digital thermometers :

Digital multi-use thermometer: (underarm) useful for screening at any age, (rectal) for babies from birth to three years and (oral) for kids above four years old. The sensor is located at the tip of the thermometer which touches the part of the body in order to read body temperature.

•Tympanic thermometer: for those aged six months and older. It reads infrared heat waves released by eardrum.

•Temporal artery thermometer: For those three months and older. It reads infrared heat waves released by the temporal artery at the side of the forehead.

Some home remedies for children with fever include helping the child to drink plenty of fluids, wearing light clothing and keeping the child in a cool and well- ventilated room environment.

You can also do tepid sponging by removing your child's clothing and cover him with a towel.

Then wet a sponge or towel with lukewarm water and sponge his body from front to back.

Also use a cold compress and apply it to his forehead, back of the neck, armpits and groin. Do not sponge for more than 30 minutes and stop if your child is shivering or turning blue.

You should take your child to see a doctor when:

•His fever rises above 40 deg C repeatedly.

•He is younger than three months old and has a temperature of 38 deg C or higher.

•The fever persists for more than 24 hours and he is younger than two years old.

•The fever persists for more than 72 hours and he is older than two years old.

•He has difficulty breathing.

•He has decreased urine output and is eating poorly.

•He has repeated vomiting or diarrhoea.

•He has an unexplained rash.

•He has a stiff neck, severe headache or a seizure.

•He looks ill, drowsy or irritable.

There are five facts every parent should know about fever:

1 Fever is the body's way to fight infection. It means that your child's immune system is working and the body is trying to heal itself.

2 How high the fever is does not indicate the severity of the illness.

3 Viral fevers can last five to seven days.

4 High fever itself does not cause brain damage. However, a small percentage of children between six months and six years old may have seizures with high fever.

5 Overwrapping your child and a hot environment can cause his body temperature to go slightly above normal.

Dr Grace Lim

Paediatrician at the Thomson Paediatric Centre

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2016, with the headline 'Use digital thermometers for fever'. Print Edition | Subscribe