I have a 16 month old daughter and am concerned about her health. I like to know what pre-cautious measures should we take as parents in case she has fever, sore-throat and chest congestion. Please provide detail. Thanks
Fevers are a normal response to either viral or bacterial infection, and are a good way of knowing your child's body is responding normally and attempting to fight off the infection. The downside to fever is that even a low-grade fever can make you just feel awful. Askdrsears.com has some great advice on how to handle fevers in young children. He says:
- Fevers of 101-103 F (38.4-39.5 Celcius) are generally not serious and can wait until morning (if it occurs in the middle of the night) to be evaluated by a physician. But your child should still be seen by a physician.
- Fevers 104 (40 Celcius) and greater that respond to acetaminophen/ibuprofen and bring the temperature down to 100-101 (37.8-38.3 Celcius) can also wait until morning for evaluation.
Exceptions to the above two rules are:
- Your child is lethargic (limp, lifeless, unresponsive, or not making eye contact)
- Your child is extremely irritable (he/she is completely inconsolable and cries for hours)
- Your child has a stiff/sore neck, is vomitting, has a high fever, a headache, and cannot tolerate bright lights. These are symptoms of meningitis.
- Your child has a high fever that does NOT respond to fever-reduction methods.
All of these four points are considered medical emergencies and your child should see a doctor immediately.
Otherwise, fever reducers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are good to keep on hand. If you don't want to give your child medication, you can try bringing down moderate fevers with tepid/lukewarm baths, or by simply rubbing your child's arms and legs with a cool, wet washcloth. This does NOT mean cold water. The Dr. Sears site answers practically every question you could ever have about fevers and fever management.
Sore throats are not usually an emergency. The real challenge is to make sure that you keep your child hydrated as they frequently won't want to eat/drink much if their throat hurts. Giving them popsicles/ice cream/frozen yogurt/etc. can encourage them to eat. Most sore throats are caused by viruses and will go away on their own, but if the sore throat is accompanied by fever and swollen neck glands then you may have a case of strep throat which needs to be treated with antibiotics.
Chest congestion can be tricky and can be a sign of everything from a cold to pertussis and pneumonia/influenza. Using a humidifier can help make breathing a little easier. Certain plants like eucalyptus, camphor, and lavender are ingredients in an over-the-counter salve found here in the US which has been shown to improve breathing and congestion in people who use it. If the congestion is getting to be especially tricky, taking your child into a bathroom, shutting the door, and turning on the shower as hot as possible will create a steam room (you should NOT be in the shower. You just want to create a sauna-like effect. We usually sit on a closed toilet with our son/daughter on our lap). Sometimes exposing your child to the cold will help the bronchioles to contract and make breathing a little less labored. If it's cold outside, you can take your child directly outside, or, if it's summertime, you can stand them in front of a freezer for a few minutes.
If you start to notice a sucking in around the rib cage when your child inhales, this could be a sign of a serious respiratory infection and your child should be seen by a doctor. It sounds strange and you worry that you won't recognize it when you see it, but without any training I knew it when I saw it on my daughter when she was 6 months old.
As always, go with your gut. You know your child. If she seems really ill and you feel like she needs to be seen by a doctor then don't hesitate. If you want more information about any of this stuff, the Ask Dr. Sears website is a really good reference. Just type your term into the search box. And as Valkyrie says, getting into the habit of good hygiene early is the best prevention!