Every baby, infant, child, will develop a raised temperature sooner or later. Generally it will be sooner. In fact, an infant can become very hot, often suddenly. This can be quite distressing to mother, especially if she is not accustomed to seeing her child hot and sweaty and obviously uncomfortable. Fevers are common. Doctors talk about “pyrexia,” merely their term for a raised body temperature.

Fortunately most return to normal as a thermochromic strip thermometer on an infant’s forehead indicates the temperature. Quickly these rise, and in many cases the cause is unknown. Also, the severity of the fever often bears little relationship to the underlying cause. A high temperature does not necessarily mean the child is suffering from some sinister, life imperiling disease. But at the same time, the sooner a fever is controlled, the better.

Sometimes the fever may be due to something very simple. For example, a hot day in itself may cause baby’s temperature to rise. This is more probable if he is wearing too many clothes, and heat produced by his body cannot dissipate into the surrounding air.

Or he may not receive adequate fluids. In hot weather, babies perspire profusely, and as the fluid on the skin evaporates normally, this helps to keep his body temperature normal. So, too much clothing and too little fluid on hot days can cause temperatures to soar.

Infections may cause elevated temperatures also. Of course, nearly any infection, from a simple cold or sore throat can certainly produce fevers. The so-called heat regulatory mechanism of children, for a baby especially, is not very well-developed. It takes some years before this attains a high degree of efficiency. That is why they have sudden severe ups and downs al body heat.

The brain is finely attuned to heat, and prefers a nice consistent temperature. Suddenly subjected to overheating, some babies have a tendency to have a convulsion. This simply means the brain sends out a series of impulses initiated by abnormal heat acting of the brain. So the baby has a convulsion or a fit. Fortunately most of these are short-lived, especially if suitable treatment is found. They are somewhat alarming, particularly if they happen in the middle of the Jilt (a common time), and when the mother has not seen one happen before. But prompt, calm, efficient treatment will usually cut a fit short. In most cases, there are no adverse repercussions.

Certainly, a small number of these patients may finally become a true epileptic, but fortunately this is not the usual outcome. Nevertheless, any baby sustaining a seizure must be properly examined by the doctor. Special tests may be suggested to diagnose any underlying disorder.

Fever Treatment

Ideally any fever that persists for a few hours is best treated. In fact, very simple measures can be carried out as soon as it becomes apparent.

Check for any obvious causes. Make sure an overheated child is suitably attired. Remove any excessive clothing, particularly if the day is hot or humid. Place him in a cooler room, perhaps with a fan on, but make certain he is not in a direct draught that could initiate the risk of an infection or chill.

I believe a cool sponge is a good idea. It is probably the quickest and simplest way of bringing down an elevated temperature. Sponge him with lukewarm water. Do it gently and quickly, and lightly cover him up afterwards to avoid a chill that can commonly take place. Sometimes a sprinkling with eau de Cologne is also quick and effective. Being alcohol-based it evaporates rapidly, giving a cooling, pleasing sensation. It also smells nice!

Sometimes an ice bag can bring pleasing relief. Ideally have a few layers of material in between so that it will not feel too cold and give junior the shivers. A pack of frozen peas (in a plastic wrap) is also a simple, useful method.

In recent years a device called a medimask, or medipak, is also effective. This is a plastic fluid-filled device that is kept in the refrigerator. It is filled with blue colored fluid that becomes cold, but does not freeze. Placed against the skin, it rapidly imparts a cool sensation and can reduce elevated temperatures.

The medimask is ideal for the head and the other one for other parts of the body. Use with discretion. They are made for adult use, and will therefore cover fairly large areas according to the size of the infant.

If simple measures are ineffective within a short period, medication is often successful. Paracetamol elixir (or drops for babies) will decrease fevers and reduce pain if present (as is often the case with infections). The dose will vary with the child’s age, so refer to the label for instructions.

Although once popular with all ages, aspirin and aspirin-containing products are now not generally recommended for infants and children under the age of six years. Aspirin is highly irritating to the stomach lining and although it will reduce fevers, it may cause ulceration and internal hemorrhage. Paracetamol is believed to be safer, although care not to overdose is essential. Make certain the bottle is not left around, especially with the cap removed. Small prying hands are very nimble and many serious accidents have been recorded with overdoses. Be cautioned!

If simple measures do not bring down a fever and it remains high for more than several hours, I believe it is then advisable to call the doctor.

If the fever is associated with other symptoms, especially vomiting, continual diarrhea, pain, particularly in the stomach, head, ears or chest, medical supervision becomes even more important. Never neglect adequate medical care of your child. Home remedies are good as a starter. But any persisting symptoms need professional help.

Often a fever is the first warning of illness. Within a day or two other telltale symptoms may occur, such as a skin rash (indicating perhaps measles or chickenpox), sore throat, stuffed-up nose or cough, indicating there is an infection of the upper respiratory system. Treatment then will vary, as the specific infection is treated.