Thursday, January 18, 2007

First time parents and fever facts

When I first had Aidan, everything was new and overwhelming. I stayed in the hospital for four days, resting from a stomach muscle separation and being treated with painful mastitis. Aidan being a little bit yellow didn't sit well with me either.

I felt protected then and did not want to be discharged as I will be fully responsible for a little human being when I got home. I was scared. Feeling that way took away some pleasure a new parent should feel.

One of the many 'problems' parents deal with is the common fever. Having a baby with temperature in their arms makes them feel unprepared, frightened, and ignorant. Working at the pharmacy which operates till midnight for many years now, I often have parents walking into the store seeking advice, mainly we are so accessible. Here are some facts you may like to know:

Very young babies cannot control their body temperature, so he or she may not develop a fever to deal with infections. And when fevers do arise, they can often come quickly and frighten new parents, especially if there is a threat of febrile convulsion.

Babies cannot tell us when they are not feeling well, therefore body temperature can be the best indication that the child is fighting an infection. There is no 'standard' body temperature. Being normal is usually around 37 degrees C, but varies individually. A good way to monitor the baby's normal temperature is to record a reading when the child is feeling well, i.e. one in the morning and one in the evening, then take the average of the two.

Mild fever (up to 39 degrees C) is usually not harmful, but Wilkin will always pester me to bring Aidan to the clinic anyhow. I will give Aidan liquid paracetamol and dab a cool towel on his forehead and neck. That usually does the trick. However, a high fever (41.5 or more) can be dangerous, and if prolonged, can trigger convulsions.

Temperature readings differ depending on the part of the body taken. Under arm temperature reading is usually 0.5 degrees C lower, and rectal temperature reading is usually 0.5 degrees C higher, than the temperature taken orally.

In Australia, babies above six months of age can be given anti-inflammatory/antipyretic liquid preparations such as ibuprofen, provided the baby does not have any allergy or known asthma condition. It lasts longer and is also effective for relieving discomforts from teething and ear infections. However, this medication is to be given only on a full tummy, i.e. with or immediately after food, hence it may not be a good choice if you need to give a dose in the middle of the night.

Useful information for Australians, there is a 24 hour 'Nurse-On-Call' line if you need to seek any advice at two or three o'clock in the morning. 1300 60 60 24

Disclaimer: This information is not to be used as medical advice or substituted for treatment by your health care provider.

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