Misconceptions about the dangers of fever are commonplace.  Unwarranted fears about harmful side effects from fever cause lost sleep and unnecessary stress for many parents.  Let the following facts help put fever into perspective.

MYTH:    All fevers are bad for children.
FACT:     Fevers actually turn on the body's immune system.  Fever is one of the body's protective mechanisms to help fight infection.  Just as you sterilize objects by heating, the body does exactly the same, using heat to fight germs.

100 to 102 degrees F

Low grade fevers are beneficial.  Try to keep them in this range.

102 to 104 degrees F

Moderate grade fevers are still beneficial

Greater than 104 degrees F

High fevers cause discomfort, but still are beneficial

Greater than 105 degrees F

Higher risk that infection is bacterial with a very high fever.

Greater than 108 degree F

The fever itself can be harmful

MYTH:     Fevers cause brain damage, and fevers above 104 degrees F are dangerous.
FACT:      Fevers with infections don't cause brain damage.  Only body temperatures over 108 degrees F can cause brain damage.  The body temperature only goes this high with high environmental temperatures (e.g. confined in a closed car).

MYTH:    Anyone can have a febrile seizure.
FACT:    Only 4 5 of children ever have a febrile seizure.

MYTH:    Febrile seizures are harmful.
FACT:     Febrile seizures are scary to watch, but they usually stop within 5 minutes.  They cause no permanent harm.  Children with febrile seizures have no higher incidence for developmental delays, learning disabilities, or seizures without fever.

MYTH:    All fevers need to be treated with fever medicine.
FACT:     Fevers only need to be treated if they cause discomfort, usually in the range of 102 to 103 degrees F.

MYTH:     Without treatment, fevers will keep going higher.
FACT:      Fevers from infection usually top out around 105 or 106 degrees F, because of the brains thermostat.

MYTH:     With treatment, temperature should return to normal.
FACT:      With treatment, the temperature should come down 1-3 degrees only.

MYTH:    If you can't "break the fever", the cause is more serious."
FACT:    Fevers that don't respond to fever medicine can be caused by viruses or bacteria.  It doesn't relate to the seriousness of the infection.

MYTH:    Temperatures between 98.6 and 100 degrees F are "Low Grade Fevers."
FACT:    The normal temperature changes throughout the day and peaks in the late afternoon or evening.  Less that 100.4 degrees F is NOT a true fever.


(Adapted from : Instructions for Pediatric Patients, 2nd edition, 1999 by WB Saunders Company.)

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