By Dr Khushboo Shah Sawant
When the climate keeps changing, children become the first casualty as they often fall ill, with the most common illness being fever. The first fever of a baby is often an extremely scary experience for the parents, who often begin to think of the worst possible consequences in the given scenario. However, most fever outbreaks are harmless and are caused usually by some mild infections, which invade the baby’s vulnerable body. These outbreaks are commonly self limiting in nature and get settled without any dire consequences. However, fevers can be a cause of concern for the parents especially in the first few months of life, as at that time the little one’s immune system is yet not as well developed to fight infections very well. It is of vital importance to check the temperature of your baby whenever you suspect he is having a fever. Any temperature recorded more than 100.4’F should be brought to the notice of the child’s doctor. This brings us to the question of how one can ascertain that the baby is having a fever for sure? The simplest way to check for fever is by placing your palm on the forehead and heels of the baby. If they feel hotter than usual then he probably may be having fever. A thermometer will help in accurately checking the temperature of the baby, and hence it is of great importance for parents to have a well functioning thermometer in the house at all times. Having said that, another most common cause of increased temperatures in babies is overdressing. Parents often go overboard in protecting the baby by dressing him up in multiple layers of clothing socks, caps etc. not realizing that the outside temperature may not need so much of dressing. This also leads to an increased temperature of the body, leading to incorrect assumptions.
When the baby has fever, it is hard for the parents to not feel worried, but the key is not to panic. But how does a person tell the difference if a fever is a mild infection or anything serious to be concerned about? Age is a vital factor; a fever in a baby under 3- 6 months of age is more serious than when it happens among babies who are older. Also if the baby is active and playful along with a high temperature then probably there is not much to be worried about, but ensure you keep a check for any other symptoms develop. Look out for symptoms like difficulty in breathing, loss of appetite etc. It is important to remember that a fever rises late in the afternoon and early evening and drops around midnight and early morning. Fever is often caused by various reasons, commonly due to common flu, the cough cold and fever trio, ear infections, respiratory illness, urinary tract infections, viral illnesses, mosquito borne diseases also fever can be caused due to teething troubles, vaccinations etc.
Fever may often be accompanied by irritability, the baby being extremely fussy, refusing to leave the mother, lethargic, not feeding well, crankiness, stuffy nose, changes in sleep patterns, or maybe convulsions in case the temperature is high.
At your level, if you suspect that the child has fever, get the body temperature checked and confirm the fever then, you can soothe your baby by ensuring he is well hydrated, by offering plenty of fluids to drink, and breast feed the child well if he is being breast fed, or you can even offer the child cooled boiled water if he has started outside feeds. If he wishes to rest, do not force him to move around, if he eats lesser than normal do not force feed the child. You can use cold fomentations on the baby like a sponge bath or cold cloth over his forehead to cool the body a little. If the child has developed a fever during the mosquito borne disease season especially during monsoons, then the child’s doctor should be consulted. If you wish to give the child paracetamol to help cope with the fever, a doctor must be consulted for the correct dosage as for babies, the exact dosage depends upon the weight of the child. One must remember to never try to self medicate the child and parents definitely should be more cautious if the child is under 6 months of age.
In case of any doubt, it is always advisable to consult the doctor rather than try assumptions at home. If your child has fever along with other symptoms which probably may be of serious nature, then immediate action should be taken: if the child is very drowsy or is sleeping for longer, has not had any drink of fluids for over 6-8 hours even in case of breast fed babies. If the baby has sunken eyes, dry lips or dark yellow urine, these could be sign of dehydration. Or if the baby has developed some kind of rash or skin eruptions. In case of high temperatures, some babies also get convulsions known as ‘febrile convulsions’. Febrile convulsions are a very frightening scene especially for parents to see their baby in the state, but are rarely harmful. They usually last under 20 seconds. While the baby is having a convulsion do not restrain the child but loosen any tight clothing and if the child has anything in her mouth try to remove it out. If the child gets a convulsion, take the child to the nearest hospital immediately or emergency care. More serious illnesses like meningitis may also cause a fever without any other significant symptoms, and so a regular check of the baby’s body temperature must be done. If the child’s temperature is rising then the child’s doctor must be called for immediate attention.