FEVER PHOBIA: UNDERSTANDING THE MYTHS

Misconceptions about the dangers of fever are commonplace. Unwarranted fears about harmful side effects from fever cause lost sleep and unnecessary stress for many parents. Let the following facts help you put fever into perspective.

MYTH: All fevers are bad for children.
FACT: Fevers turn on the body’s immune system.
Fevers are one of the body’s protective mechanisms.
Most fevers are good for children and help the body fight infection. Use the following definitions to help put your child’s level of fever into perspective:

100º-102ºF – Low-grade fevers are beneficial. Try to keep the fever in this range.
(37.8º-38.9ºC)
102º-104ºF – Moderate-grade fevers are beneficial.
(38.9º-40ºC)
>104ºF(>40ºC) – High fevers cause discomfort but are harmless.
>105ºF(>40.6ºC) – Higher risk of bacterial infections with a very high fever.
>108ºF(>42.2ºC) – The fever itself can be harmful.

MYTH: Fevers cause brain damage, and fevers over 104ºF (40ºC) are dangerous.
FACT: Fevers with infections don’t cause brain damage. Only body temperatures over 108ºF (42.2ºC) can cause brain damage. The body temperature only goes this high with high environmental temperatures (e.g., confined in a closed car).

MYTH: Anyone can have a febrile seizure.
FACT: Only 4% of children ever have a febrile seizure.

MYTH: Febrile seizures are harmful.
FACT: Febrile seizures are scary to watch, but they usually stop within 5 minutes. They cause no permanent harm. Children with febrile seizures have no higher incidence for developmental delays, learning disabilities, or seizures without fever.

MYTH: All fevers need to be treated with fever medicine.
FACT: Fevers only need to be treated if they cause discomfort?usually fevers over 102ºº or 103F (38.9º or 39.5ºC).

MYTH: Without treatment, fevers will keep going higher.
FACT: Fevers from infection top out at 105º or 106ºF (40.6º or 41.1º C) or lower, because of the brain’s thermostat.

MYTH: If the fever doesn’t come down (if you can’t “break the fever”),
the cause is serious.
FACT: Fevers that don’t respond to fever medicine can be caused by viruses or bacteria. It doesn’t relate to the seriousness of the infection.

MYTH: If the fever is high, the cause is serious.
FACT: If your child looks very sick, the cause is serious.

MYTH: The exact number of the temperature is very important.
FACT: How your child looks is what’s important.

MYTH: Temperatures between 98.6º and 100ºF (37.0º and 37.8ºC)
are low-grade fevers.
FACT: The normal temperature changes throughout the day and peaks in the late afternoon and evening.

A reading of 99.4ºF (37.5ºC) is just the average rectal temperature. It normally can change from 98.4ºF (36.9ºC) in the morning to a high of 100.3ºF (38.0ºC) in the late afternoon.
A reading of 98.6ºF (37ºC) is just the average oral temperature. It normally can change from a low of 97.6ºF (36.5ºC) in the morning to a high of 99.5ºF (37.5ºC) in the late afternoon.