Experts warn parents against giving children medicine for mild fevers 4 years ago

Experts warn parents against giving children medicine for mild fevers

There is nothing more worrying to a parent than having a child who is is not well.

I vividly remember the first time my now-five-year-old came down with a fever, and I in a panic rang everyone who could have an opinion on what it could be and, more importantly, how I could make her better.

I am in a rather lucky position, medically speaking, as both my mum and my sister are nurses, and I have no less than three close friends who are pediatric doctors. Oh, and my aunt is my GP. I literally have my very own little medical team on hand, ready to assist with all my questions and panic attacks.

Growing up with a mum who was a nurse meant that she never took administering medication lightly. As in; we would have to be on death's door to be offered any sort of pain or fever relief when we were kids. And as for staying home from school? Only if we were really really ill. Vomiting bugs, for instance. A sniffle and sore throat, on the other hand – nothing a little fresh air wouldn't fix, according to her. This has clearly rubbed off on me; I have probably not taken more than two paracetamol tablets in the last ten years, preferring instead just to rest or drink water or load up on vitamin C and hope for the best.


But when I had children, It was hard just to let them "ride it out". But in the words of my paediatrician bestie: "You should treat the child, not the fever." Meaning; if my little girl was in OK form, and still eating and drinking OK, unless her fever crept very high (39 C+), there was little point in just dishing out medicine for the sake of it. A piece of advice I still to this day, four years and many fevers later, live by.

And it looks like my own little medical team was on to something, as doctors are now warning parents against giving their children paracetamol and ibuprofen (the medical components of Calpol and Nurofen) for mild bouts of fever. By doing so, medical professionals warn, you could not only extend a child's illness, but also put their health at risk.


"Fever Phobia"

According to doctors, parents today have a misplaced "fever phobia" where they much too frequently use medicines to bring down even slight temperatures. This is worrying, as the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that a high temperature is often the body’s way of fighting an infection, and warns parents that to bring it down with drugs could actually lengthen a child’s illness.

The problem, according to the American medical body, is that GPs are very quick to tell parents to give their children alternate doses of paracetamol and ibuprofen, and many are giving the wrong doses or getting dosages mixed up when they are trying to get their child's fever down by what is know as "combination therapy".

In its guidance today, however, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that “it should be emphasised that fever is not an illness but is, in fact, a physiological mechanism that has beneficial effects in fighting infection.” In short, they are trying to help parents understand that a fever in itself is not known to endanger a generally healthy child.

Despite this, the academy says, many parents administer paracetamol or ibuprofen even though there is only a minimal fever or none at all. "Paracetamol," Dr Henry Farrar, of the University of Arkansas warns, "has been linked to asthma, while there have been reports of ibuprofen causing stomach ulcers and bleeding, and leading to kidney problems."