Report | Parents Improperly Medicating Fevers


Child with a fever | Image by Sergey Novikov

New findings suggest parents may be unnecessarily giving fever-reducing medicine to children.

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Michigan released the results of a poll on how parents treat fever on February 20.

The poll included 1,376 responses from parents with children aged 12 and below and was conducted between August and September 2022. Responses indicated that one in three parents give fever-reducing medicine to children below the threshold requiring medication.

A fever is classified as a body temperature at or above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the report.

“Often parents worry about their child having a fever and want to do all they can to reduce their temperature. However, they may not be aware that in general the main reason to treat a fever is just to keep their child comfortable,” said Dr. Susan Woolford, Mott Poll co-director and pediatrician, according to a press release.

According to the poll, two-thirds of participants were confident in their ability to know when a child needed the medication but differed on the threshold needed before administering medicine, with 35% saying below 100.4 F, 50% saying between 100.4 F and 101.9 F, and 15% at 102.0 F or higher.

Woolford said that often the best course of action with a fever is to let it pass on its own.

“Lowering a child’s temperature doesn’t typically help cure their illness any faster. In fact, a low-grade fever helps fight off the infection,” said Woolford in the release. “There’s also the risk of giving too much medication when it’s not needed, which can have side effects,” she continued.

Woolford advised that administering medicine when it is unnecessary can mask symptoms of an affliction, meaning a child could still be contagious when symptoms subside.

“Medications used to lower temperatures also treat pain, but pain is often a sign that helps to locate the source of an infection,” said Woolford. “By masking pain fever-reducing medication may delay a diagnosis being made and delay receiving treatment if needed,” she continued.

Medical professionals advised that parents be mindful of how much medication is used, use other alternatives to remedy symptoms, such as light clothing and hydration, and contact a doctor if the fever is accompanied by “decreased activity, increased fussiness, or decreased urine output.”

Studies have shown that obesity is associated with prolonged fever during urinary tract infections and postpartum fever in teenage mothers classified as severely obese (BMI greater than 34).

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