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FROM THE VAULT: Fever Pitch: What to give for a fever and when? (Spring 2008)

FROM THE VAULT: Fever Pitch: What to give for a fever and when? (Spring 2008)

Healthy Life Magazine Spring 2008 - Ask the Pediatrician

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. After a winter 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 area pediatrician Dr. Azmat Saeed 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. Saeed 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. Saeed says that today's child medications have flavoring agents with enough variety to please most kids. 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. Saeed did point out that fever reducers are not always 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 make the child comfortable. The fever reducer won't help your child get better any faster-in fact they do nothing to treat the cause of the fever--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, and you may even try to give him a lukewarm sponge bath to comfort him. The bath may be just as effective as medicine at reducing the fever. If the fever is accompanied by a rash or vomiting, contact your pediatrician as soon as possible. Dr. Saeed says it's a good idea-especially if you've got a very young child-to consult your doctor before administering fever reducing meds.

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.

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, or to avoid using too much of one medicine as symptoms persist, 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.

Azmat Saeed, MD
30 Grant Avenue
Endicott, NY 13760