Study: Hold Off on Treating Kids' Fevers With Drugs Print this page|EmailShare on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on DiggShare on Lifestream By Catherine Donaldson-Evans Feb 28th 2011 11:50AM
When your child has a fever, it's natural to panic. And panicking parents often try to treat the problem with drugs.
Not so fast, says a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. Reaching for the fever meds is actually the last thing a mom or dad should do -- unless their little girl or boy is really suffering.
"There's a myth out there that if you have a fever, you could have brain damage or seizures. That causes parents to be very anxious," research co-author Janice Sullivan told Time.com. "Sometimes children with a fever of 103 will sit and play and act completely normal."
Sullivan, a professor of pediatric critical care and clinical pharmacology at the University of Louisville, says fever generally doesn't hurt children. It can actually help them because it sends a message to the body to produce more white blood cells, which ward off infection.
What that means is that a fever might actually cut the length of time a child is sick by stopping bacterial infections and viruses from multiplying, according to Sullivan.
The message? Don't load your kids up on Tylenol, Advil or other fever-reducing medicine just because their body temperature is up a bit. Doctors wouldn't, unless the fever is 101 degrees or higher, the research shows.
Sullivan and her team found that parents are quick to treat kids' fevers with medicine, with a quarter of them saying they use it for fevers of under 100 degrees and 85 percent reporting they'd roused their children from sleep to give them medicine to bring their temperatures down.
The researchers said exceptions should be made for babies under 3 months old who have a fever that's higher than 100.4 degrees and those 3 to 6 months old with a temperature over 101 degrees. They said immediate medical care is necessary in those cases.
But for the little ones older than 6 months, fevers shouldn't send off alarm bells unless they're higher than 103 degrees, the study said. If they're accompanied by other serious symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting, a trip to the pediatrician may be in order.
The report warns that though it may be more effective to alternate between acetaminophen and ibuprofen, the safety concerns over mixing the two probably outweigh the possible benefits.
There is "evidence that combining these two products is more effective than the use of a single agent alone; however, there are concerns that combined treatment may be more complicated and contribute to the unsafe use of these drugs," the authors wrote.
Moms and dads who do decide to treat the temp with fever-busting medicine should give the correct dose, which is by the child's weight, not age, Sullivan said. Her analysis found that half of parents give the wrong amount of medicine to their kids.