Earlier in the week, my active son was lying on the couch and being quiet so I knew something was up. It took just a quick look at his redder than rosy cheeks and tired eyes to know it was his temperature. My son and daughter have had just a few fevers, but the heat of their flushed faces and lil furnace bodies always causes me to worry. On one occasion, our pediatrician recommended acetaminophen to bring the temperature down, but normally we wait it out with plenty of fluids. To see why,
Fever is not an illness. Far from being an enemy, it is an important part of the body's defense against infection. Many infants and children develop high fevers with minor viral illnesses. While a fever signals to us that a battle might be going on in the body, the fever is fighting for the person, not against.
Most bacteria and viruses that cause infections in people thrive best at 98.6°F. Raising the temperature a few degrees can give your body the winning edge. In addition, a fever activates the body's immune system to make more white blood cells, antibodies, and other infection-fighting agents.
Many parents fear that fevers will cause brain damage. Brain damage from a fever generally will not occur unless the fever is over 107.6°F (42°C). Many parents also fear that untreated fevers will keep going higher and higher. Untreated fevers caused by infection will seldom go over 105°F unless the child is overdressed or trapped in a hot place.
Some parents fear that fevers will cause seizures. For the great majority of children, this is not the case. However, febrile seizures do occur in some children. Once a child is already known to have a high fever, a febrile seizure is unlikely with the current illness. In any event, simple febrile seizures are over in moments with no lasting consequences.
Although infections are the most common causes of higher-than-normal body temperature, fevers have a long list of other causes, including toxins, cancers, and autoimmune diseases.