Bringing down the temperature
Undressing. The first and most important thing to remember when your child has a temperature is not to overdress her. Piling clothes on when she is hot acts like a tea cosy and keeps the heat in and this could raise her temperature to dangerous levels. Leave her in a nappy and cotton vest without other covering if she is still an infant. All an older child needs is light cotton pyjamas or just panties. Allow body heat to escape as much as possible. Cotton is better than synthetic fabrics for conducting heat and absorbing sweat. If you take your child out to the doctor, dont bundle her up, even if it is cold outside. Just dress her sensibly as you would if she were not ill. Shivering often accompanies a high fever. This is caused by the bodys temperature regulating mechanism reacting to the fever. She should still be clothed to allow air to circulate on her skin. If she feels cold she should be covered lightly.
Lukewarm baths. Sponging or tepid baths also help lower the temperature. If the child is old enough to spend time in the bath, you can run a bath using a mixture of hot and cold water to make it lukewarm. (Test it with your elbow so that it is just slightly warm – if you use water that is too cold it will cause shivering which contracts the muscles and generates more heat.)
Let her play in the water for as long as she likes (drop in a few floating toys) and stay with her all the time. A baby can be sponged down with lukewarm water -dont make it too cold and dont use alcohol as it will cool her down too quickly.
Medicines. Aspirin and paracetamol are effective in lowering the temperature and used correctly they are not harmful. Paracetamol is available in liquid as well as tablet form, but the liquid is easier to give to a child. You can use a dropper or teaspoon or mix it with a little previously boiled water and give it from a Dinky feeder (35). Use an accurate measuring spoon, available from your chemist. Do not exceed the recommended dosage and give only every four hours or as directed by your doctor. Aspirin is available in specially flavoured tablet form for children. Aspirin, like other medicines, is a dangerous poison when taken in excess, so never refer to the flavoured or other kinds as sweeties as the child could look for some to eat.
Most medicines, unless otherwise directed, are best taken after meals to avoid a stomach upset. If your child vomits within three quarters of an hour after taking the medicine, give her sips of water or fruit juice and repeat the dose.
Fevers and food. Theres no truth in the old adage feed a cold and starve a fever. Any sick child with a raised temperature needs to keep up her fluid intake to replace the fluid lost through sweating and the increased rate of body functioning. Let her have anything she fancies: water, fruit juice, fizzy drinks. Vitamin C tablets dissolved in water are good because fighting germs depletes the body of vitamin C, and any excess will be excreted. Iced lollies are another way to get her to take fluid and they also help cool her down. If you give medicine after she has been sucking an iced lolly it will not taste so bad because her mouth will be partially anaesthetised. Dont give very cold liquid to a child who suffers from
allergies or asthma, because it can bring on an attack. Milk is fine for most children but it does increase mucous secretions in some.
Dont force food on a sick child, although a little chicken soup never did any harm and has the advantage of supplying fluid as well as mineral salts and protein. Children often feel nauseous when ill, so a light, easily digestible meal is preferable. At the peak of the illness a liquid or soft diet will probably be more acceptable than a heavy meal. Broths, milk soups, boiled chicken, steamed fish and plain stews are likely to be better tolerated than fried or highly flavoured foods. Plenty of nourishment can be obtained from milk jellies, ice-cream (sorbet does not contain cream so is not as nourishing although it is suitable) and mousses. Vitamin B-producing bacteria in the bowel are destroyed by antibiotics, so give her products that contain the vitamin, such as yoghurt, milk and cheese or sprinkle a little wheatgerm on her food. Frequent small, light meals should overcome the problem of a diminished appetite and you will soon be able to tell when your child is well enough to have the usual family meals. This normally occurs when she starts asking for chips and chocolate and generally starts manipulating you. No doubt you will develop a resistance to this at the same rate as she develops resistance to childhood illnesses!
Parents often wonder whether the sick child should be confined to bed. In general it is better to let the child indicate her needs. The child who is not feeling up to it will not insist on getting out of bed. She will be glad to lie there and will be too weak to run around. The child who is moderately ill and wants to rest somewhere other than in her bed should be allowed to do so unless the doctor has specifically ordered her to rest in bed.
If the weather is mild she can even sit quietly outside. There is nothing to be gained by keeping a child in bed against her will. If she doesnt want to stay in bed she will perform and create so much that she will exhaust herself more than if she were up. Certain more serious illnesses such as rheumatic fever, pneumonia and hepatitis may require bed rest, but unless your doctor specifically prescribes this, be guided by good sense and self-preservation (yours as well as the childs). The child who must rest in bed needs a lot of attention and you had better get all the help you can, such as a radio with earphones and plenty to read. If she is too young to read to herself you can try to get a small tape recorder and tape a few stories on to cassettes or buy or borrow ready-taped nursery rhymes or stories. Coloured pencils are less messy than crayons and a scrap pad and colouring book are useful.
Knitting wool, beads to thread and sewing cards may keep her occupied for a while. Stamp collecting kits, soccer cards and miniature pinball games can also be played with in bed. I wouldnt shower the sick child with gifts – and if you do get some of the ones mentioned, dont hand them all out at once. Stretch them out over as long a period as possible. What your child really wants is your undivided attention and entertainment. However, since this is impossible, you will have to use some of the ploys suggested to keep her in bed. She needs sympathy and consideration, but being ill should not be the only way she gets them.
Returning to school
Most infections become non-contagious after the temperature has returned to normal, so you can let your child return to school or playgroup when you feel she has regained her strength and is able to cope with her usual routine away from home. Consult your doctor when in doubt.
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