I have noticed over the years of working in the Emergency Department and also teaching first aid that there is some general confusion and uncertainty over what is a normal temperatureand when you should worry about it.
Temperatures have their place in helping your body to fight off an infection. There has been some concern highlighted in the media recently about possible over use of medicines like calpol by parents. Is this in part because parents are uncertain of when to use it?
One reason it is important to manage your child’s temperature when they are under the age of 5 is that they are unable to regulate it themselves. One consequence of a rapidly rising temperature in small children is a febrile convulsion or a fit. This only affects approximately 1:20 children but it is alarming for parents when it does happen.
What then is a normal temperature? This in part depends on where is it measured but as a guide it is between 36.4 – 37.5. Anything over 38 degrees is something which you could consider treating with something like calpol.
What is a febrile convulsion?
If a child’s temperature gets too hot too quickly they can have a febrile convulsion. This is a fit which brings their temperature down to a normal level.
When they are having a seizure, the child will go stiff and then start jerking and twitching. The seizure is caused by abnormal electrical activity and it will tend to affect their whole body. Their eyes might roll back into their heads and they may go a bit blue around the mouth.
These fits should be short lived, not lasting more than a maximum of 5 minutes. Once they have had a seizure they will be more at risk of having more until they are around 5 years of age. It is important to get them checked out once the seizure has stopped.
What should I do if they are having a fit?
Make sure the area is safe.
Protect their head.
Get someone to call 999.
Time the seizure.
When they come round they will probably be quite floppy and drowsy, possibly even unconscious. If necessary put them in the recovery position or keep them calm.
All children will have a temperature at some point in their lives either because they have a viral infection or a bacterial infection. Temperatures can go as quickly as they came on some occasions and on others they can linger for a few days.
If you cannot control their temperature, if they are a really young baby or you are really worried about other symptoms then do seek advice from a Dr or the emergency department.
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