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FROM THE VAULT: Ask the Ped (Spring 2008)

FROM THE VAULT: Ask the Ped (Spring 2008)

Healthy Life Magazine Elmira Spring 2008 - Ask the Pediatrician

Fever Pitch: What to give for a fever and when?

The next time you're in your neighborhood pharmacy, head to the children's medicine aisle and take a look at the section devoted to fever reducers. Chances are you'll be overwhelmed by the variety of products, and the number of choices parents have. Sure, choice is a good thing, but when it comes to your kids' health you do want to be sure you make the right one. In this shut-in season of long days of close contact with classmates or day care friends, fevers seem to be inevitable. So when your child comes home with a fever-what do you do? To answer this question, Healthy Life talked to Dr. Sue Hong Tao of Guthrie Medical in Corning about the pros and cons of fever reducers for children; which type to choose, and when to use them.

The main choices of children's fever reducers are acetaminophen and ibuprofen-but which works better? Dr. Tao says it really isn't a matter of which works better-but which one you think works best for your child. Both medications are equally effective, and have their own unique selling points. Some studies show ibuprofen lasts longer, but unlike acetaminophen, ibuprofen is not recommended for children under 6 months of age. Then there's the issue of actually getting your child to take the medicine. Dr. Tao says that today's medicines offer a variety of good-tasting flavors, so if your child's not so keen on the grape one-try another. If it's still a struggle to get your child to swallow the medicine-there are the options of acetaminophen in suppository form or Melt Away tablets for kids over 2.

Dr. Tao did point out that fever reducers are not always absolutely necessary. The fever is the body's way of fighting off whatever infection or virus the child has contracted. In most cases, we treat fever as a way to comfort the child. The fever reducer won't help your child get better any faster; it'll just make him feel better. If your child has a fever-- especially a low grade one-but doesn't feel bad, you don't have to give him a fever reducer. Make sure the child is hydrated, don't overdress him or add extra blankets to his bed-you may even try to give him a lukewarm bath to comfort him. Dr. Tao did say, however, that if the fever is accompanied by a rash or vomiting it's important to contact your pediatrician as soon as possible.

Now, when you approach the daunting array of fever reducers in your local pharmacy, you can decide for yourself. Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen have their plusses, and if you've had success with one or the other-stick with it. And remember, if your feverish child is going on with her daily routine with little affect---you needn't have to make a choice at all. Just let the fever run its course.

Box Question:

Q: I've heard of people who alternate doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen when treating a fever, to lessen the potential for side-effects from each medication, is this appropriate?

A: Alternating medications is not uncommon, but it presents challenges. The parent must be sure that they are administering the exact correct dosage of each drug at the proper intervals. Alternating meds increases the chances of losing track of what and how much to give and when. If you choose to use this method, keep a detailed, accurate log of the times and amounts of each dosage to avoid confusion.


Sue Hong Tao, MD, FAAP
Guthrie Medical Corning Centerway
130 Centerway
Corning, NY