ONE in three parents are treating their child's fever wrong, medics have revealed.
As a general rule, in children, a high temperature is anything over 38C, the NHS states.
A high temperature or fever is the body's natural response to fighting infections like coughs and colds.
This is common, especially in the winter months, but medics have said that some parents might not be responding to this properly.
Medics at the University of Michigan in the US said that while most parents know that a fever is helping to fight off infection, one in three would give little ones medication for spiked temperatures below 38C, which isn't recommended.
The experts also found that half of parents would also use medication if the fever was between 38C and 38.8C, with a quarter of parents also being likely to give children another dose to prevent it from returning.
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Paediatrician Susan Woolford said if your little one has a fever, then you shouldn't rush when it comes to medicating them.
"Often parents worry about their child having a fever and want to do all they can to reduce their temperature.
"However, they may not be aware that in general the main reason to treat a fever is just to keep their child comfortable.
"Some parents may immediately rush to give their kids medicine but it’s often better to let the fever runs its course. Lowering a child’s temperature doesn’t typically help cure their illness any faster.
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"In fact, a low-grade fever helps fight off the infection. There’s also the risk of giving too much medication when it's not needed, which can have side effects," she said.
The study looked at 1,376 responses from parents of children aged 12, over the period of a month.
Two in three said they were confident they knew when they would need medication to help a fever.
What you need to know
Medics said that the way you measure temperature is key – as this can distort the reading.
Woolford said that most parents use a forehead scanner or mouth scanner.
"Remote thermometers at the forehead or inside the ear canal can be accurate if used correctly. But forehead readings may be inaccurate, if the scanner is held too far away or if the child’s forehead is sweaty.
"With ear thermometers, which aren’t recommended for newborns, earwax can also interfere with the reading," Woolford said.
When it comes to getting an accurate reading, Woolford said for infants and young children, rectal temperatures are most accurate.
Once children are able to hold a thermometer in their closed mouth, oral temperatures also are accurate while armpit temperatures are the least accurate method, the expert added.
"Contact thermometers use electronic heat sensors to record body temperature but temperatures may fluctuate depending on how it’s measured.
"Regardless of the device used, it’s important that parents review the directions to ensure the method is appropriate for the child’s age and that the device is placed correctly when measuring temperature", Woolford added.
Despite many parents rushing to use medication, the study found that two thirds will try and use other methods like cool washcloths.
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"A quarter of parents would give their child more medicine to prevent a fever from returning even though it doesn’t help them get better.
"If a child is otherwise doing well, parents may consider monitoring them and using alternative interventions to help keep them comfortable," the expert added.
How to treat a high temperature
Fevers can help fight off infection and Woolford said sometimes it’s best they run their course.
By masking the pain caused by a fever, the experts added that this might delay a diagnosis being made – which could also delay treatment.
If you do use medicine then it's important to keep a log of temperature readings and when medicine was given.
Parents of young children in particular should also avoid using combination cold medications along with fever-reducing medications due to the risk of over dosage.
“As we know, all medications can have side effects and we really don't want children to get too much medication when it's not necessary,” Woolford said.
Woolford said other interventions might help to keep little ones free from discomfort.
This could include keeping their room cool and not letting them overexert themselves, as well as ensuring the child is in light clothing and encouraging them to stay well hydrated with fluids or popsicles.
When to call the doctor
For newborns and infants, you should call the doctor or 111 if they have a fever.
For children four to 12 months, parents should speak to a doctor if the fever is accompanied by signs such as decreased activity, increased fussiness, or decreased urine output.
You should also seek help if your child is not acting themselves and has signs of pain – even if their temperature has come down.
Fever that reach 40C or those that last over 24 hours warrant emergency care. Call 999 or visit your nearest A&E department.
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