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Little Girl was up every few hours on Wednesday night. We thought it was because we took blanka away, but it turns out she was developing a fever. I figured it out after she woke up sobbing at 9:45 a.m. Gathering her into my arms, I realized instantly that she was putting off as much warmth as my portable heater. I took her temperature. 101.5. Crap. She was supposed to be going on a preschool field trip with my mom at 12:30, but obviously that wasn’t happening. I had to let my mom know. Besides, I was moderating a webinar at 1, so still needed her to come by and babysit. I broke the bad news, and the first words out of her mouth were, “Did you give her something for the fever yet?”

I wasn’t surprised since, as a child I spent half my life drinking pink Amoxicillin and chewing baby aspirin. Still, I calmly explained that no, I didn’t give her anything since having a fever is actually a good thing. It’s the body’s way of fighting the infection. Bringing the fever down would be like putting a muzzle on a guard dog. A silly, silly idea.

The fever persisted into the afternoon so, after my webinar, I stopped into the pediatrician just to let them take a look-see. She didn’t have any other symptoms, but she was complaining that her lower belly hurt making me wonder if it was a urinary tract infection. The doctor did a thorough exam with Little Girl sitting and screaming in my arms since she is terrified of the doctor. (That’s another blog post — an after effect of her liquid stitches experience last month.) The doctor also got a urine sample and cultured it. At the end of the exam, my doctor said Little Girl probably had a virus, sending me on my way without medicine, I might add. She did say I could give Little Girl Tylenol or Motrin if she was complaining a lot or was unable to sleep, but otherwise keep doing what I was doing: giving her lots of fluids, keeping her quiet, and encouraging her to rest.

Tonight around 11 p.m. my phone rang. It was my mom. Again, she asked if I had given Little Girl anything for her fever. This time, I couldn’t help myself. Apple iPad in hand, I pulled up the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website and read something to her. Back in February the organization came out with a new clinical report — Fever and Antipyretic Use in Children — that spoke to the use of fever reducers. From the report (I added the bold):

Fever, however, is not the primary illness but is a physiologic mechanism that has beneficial effects in fighting infection. There is no evidence that fever itself worsens the course of an illness or that it causes long-term neurologic complications. Thus, the primary goal of treating the febrile [with fever] child should be to improve the child’s overall comfort rather than focus on the normalization of body temperature.

Bottom line: Parents should not give Tylenol or Motrin — should not try and bring the fever down — unless the kid feels so terrible that they can’t sleep, eat, and drink. If they’re just a little hot, parents should let their immune system do what it needs to do. I’ve always done this for myself, too. I try not to take anything when I have a fever, instead picturing my germs sizzling and dying in my own internal sauna. (What do you expect? I’m half delirious with fever!)

Of course, I also follow common sense rules. I watch that the fever doesn’t go too high (for me that cut off is 102.5) and that everything else is okay. The patient, whether it’s me or my kids, must be drinking, urinating, and not in any pain that interferes with their normal personality. I also make sure the patient can sleep, since rest is so important when you’re fighting a virus or infection.

Little Girl went to sleep at 7 p.m. I’ve checked on her every few hours, and she seems cooler than she was in the morning. She hasn’t woken up (so far) and she hasn’t developed any other symptoms. I will keep a close eye on her, though, especially over the next few days and go back to the doctor if the fever lingers past the weekend or if she develops any symptoms that make me nervous. As for the bottle of Tylenol that my mom keeps pushing? I’m keeping it ready, but hoping, like the AAP suggests, I don’t need to use it.

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