Fevers are very common and it is probably the first recognisable symptom of ill health across Sub-Saharan Africa because most of our prevalent diseases cause fevers. In Nigeria, malaria is typically the first culprit due to the endemic nature of the disease burden in the country; however, not all fevers are due to malaria. Other ailments like the common cold, allergies, pneumonia, gastroenteritis and food poisoning, etc are among other myriads of possible causes of fever.
Mothers generally say a child has fever when they observe the child’s temperature to be seemingly hotter than theirs; scientifically, fever is said to occur when the body temperature is above 37.4°C. Other symptoms may accompany the fever depending on the cause of the illness. It is important to get medical attention for every child that has high fever, but first aid treatment may be done at home before the child gets to the health facility.
HOME-CARE AND BASIC FIRST AID FOR FEVER IN CHILDREN
- Accurate temperature measurement and Monitoring. This is best done using a thermometer to avoid individual bias. Digital thermometers are affordable and readily available in many local pharmacies. Monitoring the temperature will help you see how fast the child’s temperature is rising and thus informs you on how urgent the situation is.
- Remove excess clothing. When a child is febrile, it is not the right time to cover the child in heavy wraps and clothing. Simply removing all excess clothing and exposing the child to the cooler air current will help remove the heat from the body surface thereby assist in temperature control.
- Tepid sponging. This is easily done using lukewarm (not cold) water. Simply dip a towel into the water and wipe the child’s body with the wet towel at intervals. This helps the body take away the heat and cools it temporarily. An alternate option is to just give a quick bath with the water.
- Liberal fluid intake. The child should be given lots of fluid such as water or natural fruit juices. The trick is that this helps to replace fluid losses during the fever and provide the much needed stamina and nutrient for the body to fight the disease causing entity.
- Use of Paracetamol/Ibuprofen. These are over the counter drugs for temporary control of fever. Even though they are not categorically ‘prescription drugs’, they are best taken with the advice of a trained health worker and must be carefully used according to the recommended dosage for age. These drugs will not cure the cause of the fever but they will give relief from the immediate fever symptom and should not be continuously used for more than two days.
A Fever is simply the body’s way of recruiting all its defence system to deal with an offending agent.
Although the fever is not the disease in itself, high body temperature in children has untoward complications such as seizures or dehydration; these are much less likely in adults. This is the primary reason why every care-giver must be well informed on the first aid management of fever in a child.