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When her young children became feverish, my sister would undress them and try to bring their temperature down.

However my mother is adamant that the right treatment is the exact opposite- Wrap them up warm, but give them plenty of liquid so they don't become dehydrated.

Which is the correct treatment?

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Our local Red Cross' infant first-aid course made a big point to not overheat the child. A fever can be life-threatening if too high so don't pack the child in thick blankets and clothing. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 9 '12 at 11:52
Interesting thanks. If anyone has links to official medical advice that I could show to my mother that would be much appreciated. –  Urbycoz Jan 9 '12 at 11:56
I added some links to Beofett's answer. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 9 '12 at 13:59
A fever is a symptom, so the key is to try and find out the cause so that you can treat the cause. As for how to handle a fever, you don't want the child to overheat. Prolonged high temperatures cause brain damage or worse. CALL THE NURSE/DOCTOR! Typically they'll want you to treat it with fever reducing medication. –  DA01 Jan 10 '12 at 23:08
A few reference points: according to our pediatrist, 37.5 - 38.5 °C (99.5 - 101.3 °F) is a raised temperature, above 38.5 °C/101.3 °F is a fever, and we should call him only when the temperature stays above 39.8 °C (103.6 °F) for more than one hour. Brain damage can occur at temperatures of 42 °C (107.6 °F) and above (see nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003090.htm) –  Treb Jan 11 '12 at 10:55

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

As Torben mentioned, you do not want to bundle them up and risk raising the fever.

However, the opposite extreme is not helpful, either. Undressing the child, cold baths, ice, or alcohol rubs can lower the skin temperature without lowering the fever. This can cause hivering, which can actually raise the core temperature further.

  • Do NOT bundle up someone who has the chills.
  • Remove excess clothing or blankets. The room should be comfortable, not too hot or cool. Try one layer of lightweight clothing, and one lightweight blanket for sleep. If the room is hot or stuffy, a fan may help.
  • A lukewarm bath or sponge bath may help cool someone with a fever. This is especially effective after medication is given -- otherwise the temperature might bounce right back up.

You are spot-on with suggesting plenty of liquids. Water, gelatin, soup, or even popsicles are all good ways to keep your child hydrated.

The old adage "feed a cold, starve a fever" is bad advice. If your child is hungry, let them eat.

As always, call your doctor if the fever gets too high:

  • Is younger than 3 months old and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 °F (38 °C) or higher
  • Is 3 -12 months old and has a fever of 102.2 °F (39 °C) or higher

Also call your doctor if the fever doesn't show signs of going away:

  • Is under age 2 and has a fever that lasts longer than 24 - 48 hours
  • Is older and has a fever for longer than 48 - 72 hours

Here are some official links:

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Thank you for your thorough answer. –  Urbycoz Jan 9 '12 at 14:03

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