Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fear not the fever

Fever can indeed be scary, and any fever in an infant younger than 3 months is cause for major concern because of the risk of serious bacterial infections. But in general, in older children who do not look very distressed, fever is positive evidence of an active immune system, revved up and helping an array of immunological processes work more effectively. ...

In fact, fever does not harm the brain or the body, though it does increase the need for fluids. And even untreated, fevers rarely rise higher than 104 or 105 degrees.

As many as 5 percent of children are at risk for seizures with fever. These seizures can be terrifying to watch but generally are not harmful and do not cause epilepsy. Still, a child who has a first febrile seizure should be checked by a physician. (These seizures tend to run in families, and children who have had one may well have another.) ...

Dr. Janet Serwint, another author of the study and a professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins, agreed. “I personally think there should be much more education about this at well visits,” she told me, adding that parents need to understand “the helpfulness of fever — how fever actually is a well-orchestrated healthy response of our body.”
--Perri Klass, M.D., NYT, on letting fever run its course

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