MH speaks to the experts and finds out all you need to know about babies and fevers.
WORDS CHIA YING MEI
Fevers are one of the most common symptoms of childhood illnesses that parents have to deal with, but did you know that it doesn’t always warrant a visit to the doctor? Motherhood speaks to two specialists for everything you need to know about this common childhood ailment: the causes, the symptoms and what you should do when fever strikes.
What is a Fever and What Causes it?
Our body’s temperature is regulated by the part of the brain known as the hypothalamus, which keeps it at about 37°C.
A fever is when our body temperature is raised above this temperature in response to illness or
infection. This means that if your child has been running around under the hot sun,
for example, a body temperature of above 37°C is not indicative of a fever.
A fever that requires treatment is most commonly caused by viral or bacterial infections. According to Dr Rajeev Ramachandran, consultant, Division of General Ambulatory Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, National University Hospital, “Fevers are a normal, healthy way for the body to fight common infections as viruses and bacteria do not multiply well in higher temperatures.”
What is the Best Way to Measure Your Child’s Temperature?
The most accurate way of measuring your child’s body temperature is rectally, but this isn’t always a practical solution. So, what can you do instead? Dr Christelle Tan, specialist in paediatrics and consultant, Raffles Specialists, Raffles Holland V, recommends different types of thermometers depending on the age of your child.
If your child is below six months old, you should use either the digital axillary (which measures from the armpit) or oral thermometer (which measures from the mouth). However, these may give a slightly lower reading compared to the rectal thermometer as they are considered ‘outer’ measurements of body temperature and may not pick up on slight fevers.
You may also choose to use an infrared forehead thermometer, which is a newer form of measurement gaining favour amongst parents as it is quick, convenient and requires minimal cooperation from a child. These thermometers are expensive and may have limited accuracy in young infants, so it’s up to you to decide if you want to make this investment. Aural (ear) thermometers are not recommended for infants below six months of age as the ear canal is small; this can affect the accuracy of the readings from the thermometers.
If your child is above six months of age, you can use
all of the above-mentioned thermometers, including aural
thermometers as their ear canals are now large enough.
If your child is above four years of age, oral thermometers are an acceptable form of measurement. Do note that any fluid intake whether it’s hot or iced can affect readings so take oral readings at least 15 minutes after any fluid intake.
There is no need to purchase the most expensive option, according to Dr Tan. Instead, look for a thermometer brand that has been registered with the Health Sciences Authority of Singapore. “Parents can find the list of approved brands online and purchase the respective thermometers from a reliable local retail store,” she says.
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