Due to their young age and immature immune system, children are likely to get sick more often than adults. However, unlike adults, children do not express themselves and this creates anxiety for the caregiver. If not addressed, child health can deteriorate very rapidly. Knowing what to do and when to seek medical attention is very critical.
Today’s blog shall discuss basic things that a parent or a childminder can do at home to optimize a child’s health and when to seek medical attention.
Basic principles to guide the care of a child with a fever;
- Definition of fever
Body temperature is around 37C, and reading above 37.5C is considered a fever. Fever is not a disease in itself but a normal physiological response to underlying illness. In most instances, fever is self-limiting and only becomes a problem when it persists.
- Common causes of high fever
Fever in children is an indication that the child has an infection. Bacterial and viral infections are the most common causes of fever. Viral infections include common colds, coughs, flu, and diarrhea. In the tropics, malaria is a cause of fever in children. Common bacterial infections in children are ear infections and respiratory tract infections. Sometimes, fever can occur when a child is teething. This type of fever is low-grade and self-limiting. A child can develop a fever after immunization due to immune response, and it is self-limiting too.
- Signs and Symptoms of fever in children
The child may feel hot to touch, is irritable or fussy, does not feed, and may appear weak and lethargic. In some instances, a child may have rapid breathing. When the temperature remains high, the child may cry non-stop, cannot feed, has pale skin, is drowsy, has a dry mouth, and in some instances, convulsions may occur.
- Management of fever down at home
Home management of fever may be tricky when the child has chills and shivers. The first thing to do is ensure that the child is not over-dressed as the number of clothes can trap air leading to a further rise in temperature. As well, the child should not be under dressed. Give the child plenty of fluid to drink to stay hydrated as a high fever can cause dehydration. Continue to breastfeed the child. Feed the child with frequent small and healthy meals that they can tolerate. Let the child rest to recoup lost energy.
Meanwhile, observe how the fever progresses and pay attention to signs of deterioration.
- When to seek medical attention
A child with fever requires close observation. Seek medical opinion immediately if the fever does not recede, the child remains weak, does not feed normally, and has a continuous high-pitched cry. It is an indication that treatment for the underlying cause of fever is required. Other symptoms of importance include inactivity, increased rapid breathing, flaring of nostrils, reduced urination, loss of consciousness, and convulsions.
- Emergency contacts
If the mother is not the primary childminder, the nanny must distinguish when the baby is well and unwell. A healthy child is playful, has a good appetite, can respond to voices and attracts attention, sleeps well, has a regular bowel movements with a consistent stool.
On the other hand, a sick child is dull, cries for no reason, has a poor appetite, and may vomit after feeding, does not play, and may feel hot on the skin. The minder should take necessary actions to relieve the baby of the distress and contact the child’s parent immediately. Properly educating the childminder on things to do when the baby is sick is crucial for a parent.
Emergency contact of the family doctor or ambulance services should be well displaced and easily accessible.
In our subsequent blog, we shall discuss the top two childhood illnesses that are likely to cause fever in children.
With this in mind, we hope that your child is in safe hands!