Oct 3, 2016

Announcer: Need reliable health and wellness information? Don't listen to the guy in the cube next to you. Get it from a trusted source, straight from the doctor's mouth. Here's this week's Listener Question on The Scope.

Interviewer: My daughter's two and has been admitted to the hospital, and they can't get her temperature to stay down. It's only down long enough until the medicine wears off. It varies between 103 and 105, and I can't help but wonder if something more serious is going on. This listener question is going to be answered by Dr. Cindy Gellner. She is a pediatrician at the University of Utah. Dr. Gellner?

Dr. Gellner: So we get this question a lot. Fever phobia is a common phenomena among parents, because it's scary. It's scary to watch your child have a fever that's high, and your child is miserable. But parents need to remember that a fever turns on the body's immune system. Fevers are actually one of the body's protective mechanisms, and it means their child's immune system is doing its job.

Parents worry about how long a fever lasts, but fever normally will last up to five days with most viral illnesses, and most fevers between 100 and 104 are actually good for sick kids. They help the body fight infection. Fevers with infections don't cause brain damage. That's a question I get a lot. And only body temperatures over 108 cause brain damage. The body temperature for that only gets really high with extreme environmental temperatures, like if a child is locked in a closed car in hot weather. That's when we worry about the brain temperature.

It's also important for parents to remember that fevers that don't respond to medicine can be caused by either a virus or a bacteria. And when the fever medicine wears off, the fever is going to return, and it needs to be treated again until the body's immune system overpowers whatever is causing the illness. And whether the medicine works or not doesn't relate to the seriousness of the infection. If the fever is really, really high, the cause may or may not be serious. The more important thing is looking to see if your child is very sick because if they're very sick-appearing, then it's more likely to be serious.

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