Definitely, he had a fever. He was cranky, withdrawn and his body felt warm. Mommy didn’t have a thermometer to determine how high his temperature was. But she had a bottle of Paracetamol to bring down the temperature.

He had been having this recurring fever for close to a week but since his body didn’t feel disturbingly hot (it was just warm), she was confident she had everything under control. In fact she was sure that if she hadn’t forgotten to give him his evening dose, he wouldn’t be this down. Or maybe she should have just gone for Ibuprofen. Her friend recommended it, saying it works faster and better than Paracetamol.

Next time, she will probably try Ibuprofen but as for tonight, she had a sick child to attend to.

Paracetamol and Ibuprofen are two of the most abused (over the counter) drugs due to the many myths surrounding them. They could cause more harm than good if administered wrongly. So, here are some real facts about them (and fever) which will be useful when treating your kids…

  • Fever is not an illness but a physiological mechanism of the body trying to fight off an illness
  • For many years now, Paracetamol has been used for treating fever (and pain) in children who are 1 month and over
  • Taking too much Paracetamol, over a long period of time, could harm the liver or kidney of a child
  • Paracetamol does not treat the cause of the fever (or pain). It only brings down the temperature (and relieves the pain). Hence it is important to find out the cause of a recurring fever or any fever that doesn’t go down readily
  • The height of the temperature does not determine the seriousness of the illness. Some minor illnesses cause a high temperature rise while some major illnesses cause a minor temperature rise
  • A fever is often an indication that the body is fighting off infections and the temperature may actually come down on its own. Hence in cases of low fevers, if the child does not have any underlying illness such as sickle cell anaemia etc, it is okay to first attempt bringing down the temperature without Paracetamol by giving the child a lukewarm or sponge bath, dressing him very lightly, encouraging him to rest and drink lots of fluids and keeping the room comfortable (not too hot, not too cold). However if temperature doesn’t readily come down, give Paracetamol
  • Immunization shots have been known to cause temperature rises in children. Hence, Paracetamol is often given before and after the shots in order to control the temperature. However some of these vaccines have been improved to prevent them from causing fevers
  • Paracetamol comes in different strengths and must be administered based on pharmaceutical instructions
  • Paracetamol can be taken every 4 hours, but must not be taken more than 4 times in one day
  • A child taking Paracetamol should be encouraged to drink lots of fluid
  • Paracetamol is one of the most common medicines taken in accidental overdose
  • Ibuprofen has recently being used in place of Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen should not be given to children younger than 3 months (Some doctors insist on 6 months)
  • Ibuprofen is not proven to be more effective than Paracetamol. In fact, pediatricians are more likely to recommend Paracetamol instead of Ibuprofen
  • Ibuprofen and Paracetamol shouldn’t be used at the same time
  • A dehydrated or asthmatic child must not be given Ibuprofen
  • It is critical to eat well before taking Ibuprofen
  • Taking Ibuprofen for a long period of time could come with some terrible side effects such as breathing problems and drowsiness
  • Ibuprofen can be administered 6 – 8 hours apart, but not more than 3 times a day
  • It is time to see your doctor if…
    • A child of less than 3 months has a fever
    • A 3 – 6 months old child has a temperature of over 38.3C that doesn’t come down readily
    • A child of over 6 months has a temperature of over 39.4C that doesn’t come down readily
    • Temperature lasts for more than 48 hours
    • Temperature keeps coming back for up to one week (even if temperature is not very high, still see the doctor)
    • Temperature is accompanied with other disturbing symptoms like continuous crying, inability to walk, difficult breathing, etc
    • Child is still uncomfortable even after the fever goes
    • Child shows signs of dehydration…
      • Not peed in 6 hours
      • Sunken eyes
      • Tearless cries
      • Dry, sticky mouth
      • Pinched skin that refuses to return back to its original shape
      • Sunken fontanelle (i.e the soft spot on top of the head begins to sink)
      • Inactivity and irritability
      •                                                                                                                                                                                      If you don’t own one, get yourself a thermometer (it is not expensive). It is the most objective way of determining a child’s temperature
    • So dear moms, are you one of those who abuses Paracetamol and/or Ibuprofen? Or are you careful to always follow medical instructions? Do share your experience with us…

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