NO! Aspirin and Reye's Syndrome
Our old favorite remedy, aspirin, should not be used to treat fever in children under 16 years of age. Aspirin may cause the deadly disease known as Reye's Syndrome (a syndrome of rapidly worsening neurological symptoms and liver degeneration) in children with viral illness and chicken pox. Since this association was first recognized, the use of aspirin in kids has almost disappeared, and Reye's Syndrome along with it.
Yes: Acetominophen and ibuprofen
Given that there are other effective medicines for treating fever in children, aspirin should NOT be used. The most common medicines we use to treat fever today are acetominophen and ibuprofen, both of which are sold under a variety of brand names.
NO! Alcohol rubs, a bad idea
Another old favorite that should be abandoned is the alcohol rub. It is scary and uncomfortable, and it can cause serious side effects in young infants. Alcohol rubs make kids shiver. Shivering is the body's way to generate large amounts of heat, the last thing you want if your child has a fever.
Yes: Tepid bath, a better solution
You can replace the alcohol rub with the more effective and less scary tepid bath. Sponge your child down in the tub with lukewarm water (not hot, not cold) for a few minutes. He should not be allowed to get cold enough to shiver. Pat him almost dry, but leave him a little bit damp, because it is the evaporation of the water from the skin that removes heat and lowers the temperature.
NO! Bundling up makes the body hotter
A child with a fever should not be bundled up. It will make him hotter and can raise the body temperature of young infants.
Thus far you've learned several things about fever. A fever is a temperature greater than 100.5° F and is a normal body's response to infection. The medications of choice for treating fever in children, if treatment is necessary, are acetominophen or ibuprofen, not aspirin. The alcohol rub should be replaced with the tepid bath.
But why all the fuss, anyhow? What I hope to teach you is that while a fever is often cause for concern, it is rarely a reason for panic.
Fever is not a disease
It is simply one symptom of an illness. The illness itself could possibly be serious, but it is far more likely to be one of the common viral infections of childhood, which may be scary and annoying, but in most cases is not dangerous.
One of the most common misconceptions about fever is the mistaken belief that a high fever, in itself, will harm a child. This is simply not true. The highest fever a normal human can get will be around 106° F. While such a high temperature will make the child feel terrible and scare the pants off of her parents, it will not cause physical harm or long-term damage.
How high is too high
A temperature in excess of 107° F might theoretically be dangerous, but the body will not allow the temperature to rise that high unless there is already preexisting damage to the centers of the brain responsible for controlling temperature. So, while the underlying disease may be a problem, fever in itself is not dangerous.
What about seizures with fever?
They do occur, but they are relatively uncommon and are likely due to a rapid rise in temperature. While they are horribly unpleasant, we do not believe they result in any long-term problems in otherwise normal children.
When should parents be concerned if their child has a fever? A lot depends on the age of the child. Let's first look at newborns.
Newborns and fevers
A temperature over 100.5° F in a child under three months of age is always a cause for concern. These youngest of infants are simply not like older children.