Moms come equipped with a built-in thermometer that has stood the test time. The back of a mother’s hand can feel the heat rise in her baby’s forehead, that burn on her child’s back. When fever strikes, you can feel it. Intuition will take you far, but there’s a more medically sound way to assess your child’s temperature and treat them accordingly.
“There are many ways to take a temperature. The key is whether or not it makes a clinical difference,” explained Dr. Doug Nunamaker, a family practice physician with direct care provider Atlas MD. While a mother’s hand may always know best, Dr. Nunamaker explained the ideal method for taking a child’s temperature at any age.
What to do for the littlest kids
For infants and young children, he says rectal temperatures are preferred for accuracy. In older children, oral temperatures are best, when done properly. He shared research that also found that for infants under four weeks, an axillary temperature (armpit) can give a fair reading. Rectal temperatures work for infants and young children up to age four. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence finds that infra-red tympanic (ear) temperatures work for children four weeks through five years, based mostly on the quickness and ease of use.
What about digitized thermometers?
One method that’s growing more popular are the highly digitized digital thermometers, like Braun’s new No Touch and Forehead Thermometer. It’s billed as the first thermometer with both touch and touchless functionality. Temperature taking at home is effortless, as you just hover the thermometer over the forehead slide toward the temple. When you don’t want to wake a sleeping, sick child, this is a fantastic tool.
“It’s not terribly consistent, but it is quick,” advised Dr. Nunamaker. “If you’re worried about treating a fever though, the old tried and true methods mentioned are the best.”
What happens when you take your child’s temperature in a recommended fashion and those numbers read anything other than 98.6? What’s wrong? is the next thought. Fever comes at the hands of many sources, and taking that and the actual temperature in to account will influence how worried a parent should be.
When to worry
“As far as what’s worrisome, we typically use about the 104 [degrees] F range as a mark of when to consider being seen by a healthcare provider,” explained Dr. Nunamaker. The critical red flag comes at 105.8 degrees F, at which point the temperature can lead to organ damage. “As long as the temperature is coming down with treatment, then that’s usually a good sign.”
He says parents often express concern that the fever returns once the medicine wears off. Since nothing has been done to directly treat the illness — only the fever — this is an expected reaction. Doctors will hold off on treating low-grade fevers, especially when the child doesn’t appear to be ill. But if other symptoms present, your doctor will treat for that.
What to give
Like methodology, treatment for fever will vary by healthcare provider. For Dr. Nunamaker, ibuprofen is a preferred method of managing pediatric fevers, in children over six months of age.
Fever researcher Mark A. Ward, M.D. from Baylor has found that treatment should begin with oral acetaminophen (for children older than six months). Dr. Ward says it is not recommend to combine nor alternate with ibuprofen, “because of the potential for dosing confusion, increased toxicity, and contribution to fever phobia.” However, the report did note that combining of the two drugs may be more effective in fever reduction than using either agent alone, but they don’t find that to be “clinically significant.”
Consult with your physician for their preferred way to handle fever — both in the method for reading and treatment — that is appropriate for your child’s age. And remember to keep a feverish child well hydrated with the option to get plenty of rest. You’ll both feel the relief when a cool touch returns to your hand.
TapGenes Take Away: Methodology for taking a child’s temperature will vary by age. Consult with your physician to learn the best treatment for your child.
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The author was provided a complimentary thermometer by Braun. She is under no obligation to review the product, and maintains the opinions expressed here are her own.
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