What to give your child when he or she has fever

What you should know about your child’s fever and ways to manage it

In the normal or healthy state, the human body has a specific body temperature which helps it to carry out all vital functions. This temperature rises when the body is trying to fight an infection or if there is an illness. According to a standard definition, fever is defined as a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or more, when measured with a rectal thermometer. Now, it is easy for mothers to worry when their toddlers have a fever. Should you manage the condition with home remedies or should you take him or her to a doctor? To get answers to all your questions, find out why a fever occurs and the things you can do to address it.

More on body temperature

Your child’s body temperature is maintained by his brain, skin, muscles and blood vessels. A change in your child's body temperature is nothing but a response to any illness or infection, as mentioned before. In other words, a fever is a symptom of many diseases.

The body responds to changes in temperature by:

  • An increase or decrease in sweat production, thereby either getting rid of or holding onto water in the body
  • Moving the blood closer to the skin’s surface or away from it
  • Seeking a cooler or warmer environment

Your child's body temperature might rise due to the following reasons:

  • When a foreign pathogen like bacteria, virus, fungus or any other microorganism invades your child's body, certain chemicals called cytokines are released in response to the attack.
  • Another group of cells called macrophages fight these invasive microorganisms and destroy them.
  • Your child's body then tries to make natural antibodies against these infectious microorganisms, so that they can be remembered and destroyed when they attack again.
  • Bacteria are enclosed in a covering and their toxic contents break open due to the action of macrophages, which causes a rise in body temperature.

What diets can you offer your child when he or she has a fever?

  • Provide your child ample amounts of water and fresh fruit juices so that he or she is well-hydrated.
  • Provide well-cooked, soft, easily digestible foods that your child can swallow and eat without difficulty.
  • Provide foods that are bland, not very oily and not very spicy, such as oats, bread toast, boiled and mashed potatoes, lean meats in small quantities, whole-grain foods like soft brown rice, soft chapatis, etc.
  • Provide hot soups, including vegetable and chicken soups, which can keep the body nourished and supple.
  • Provide herbal teas that can help in clearing nasal congestion.
  • You can also offer honey in small quantities as honey contains several antimicrobials.
  • Juicy fruits should be provided as they can comfort a sore throat, which might accompany your child's fever.

When is the fever too high for a child?

While the above measures can help your child combat a fever, you should watch out if he or she doesn’t seem to improve. Also, you must consult your child's doctor if he or she has any other complications along with fever, or if the fever is of prolonged duration, or if you notice anything unusual with your child. High temperature beyond 100.4°F that lingers for a long period can be a sign of dengue, malaria, cholera or other conditions. So, seek medical help immediately in such cases. Your child’s doctor might suggest a blood test to identify the exact cause of the fever while he prescribes certain medications to keep it under control.