The Fear of Fever

When a child has a fever, it sends waves of anxiety and fear through many parents. Yes, fever is a sign or symptom of an underlying infection or something that is causing inflammation, but much of the fear is unnecessary. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misunderstandings and urban myths about fever that fuels the fear. I hope I can clarify some of them for you, and hopefully give you some peace of mind the next time your child has one.

First, lets clarify a few things about what a fever is. Many people think that fever is the illness. That is simply not the case. Fever is a symptom of an infection, not its cause. If someone becomes infected with a bacteria or virus, their body makes the fever
to help fight the infection. That’s right, fever helps people get well faster. Viruses and bacteria don’t grow as well in a hot environment. Fever causes the body to produce more interferon which is crucial for your body to fight viral infections. Also, white blood cells can migrate from the blood stream out to the site of infection easier during a fever.

But, you may think, when children have a fever they get glassy eyed, they breath fast and shallow, their heart races, and they just want to lay around like a lump on a log. That’s OK, it’s the way your body is designed to react to an infection. When sick, we should just lay around and let our body concentrate fully on fighting the infection. If we bring children’s fever down and they feel better, they play, they run around and look like they’re back to nearly normal. The problem is that the body is not able to focus on fighting the infection and often they wind up even sicker that night.

Another thing I hear parents worrying about is that the fever will keep going up and up if not treated and may reach a level where it can injure the brain. This is simply not the case. Yes, fevers can run pretty high, up to 105.5 from an illness. This is not high enough to damage the brain. People who take antipsychotic medications, people who have a genetic response to gas anesthesia, and people with heat stroke can get fevers up to 110 or 112. This is high enough to cause damage and is a medical emergency. The difference is that in those cases it is not the body that is making the fever naturally. The body id designed to not hurt itself and will only make a fever to fight an infection that it can handle.

Parents also get afraid because they hear about children having seizures with fever. This does, in fact, happen to about one in two hundred children. However, it has to do with the response of the child’s brain to fever and not the fever itself. More importantly to know, it has to do with how fast the fever goes up, not how high the fever is. Going quickly from 99F to 102F is as likely to cause a problem as going quickly from 101F to 104F. The other important thing to know is that a simple febrile seizure, although scary to see, will cause no lasting harm to the child.

If your child has a fever and is uncomfortable, it is fine to bring the fever down to a lower level for comfort. You can give acetominephen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin / Advil). Do not use aspirin in children under age 12. You can also give them a sponge bath with a washcloth dampened with leukwarm water. As the water evaporates it will cool them off. Keep your child lightly dressed so the heat can radiate off as well.

What should concern you about a fever is what else your child is doing. If he has a cough and runny nose, he probably just has a cold. If he has bad ear pain, or if he is to young to tell you and very fussy, it may be an ear infection. If they are having shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, it might be a pneumonia. If they are vomiting until they are getting dehydrated, that is a big problem. If they have a severe headache with neck stiffness or unconsolable crying in an infant, they may have meningitis which is very serious. If they have a fever with no obvious reason, especially in an infant or toddler, that could mean they have a hidden infection such as in the urinary tract. If worrisome symptoms develop, the child should be seen by a doctor quickly. If they seem fine when the fever is down, you can watch them at home and get them in to be seen during office hours.

I hope this clears some things up. If you have a question, be seen by your doctor or talk to their advice nurse. Just don’t panic!

In the News 1-19-11

Study links excessive Internet time to depression in teens - Yet another reason to get your teen “unplugged” so they can actually socialize and interact with the real world!

It's Flu Time!

You may have seen in the news last week that influenza (the flu) has hit California. It is only a matter of time before it hits Chico. The good news is that there is still time to protect yourself and your family. Here’s what you can do.

Influenza is not your average cold or vomiting / diarrheal illness. There are many viruses that cause those. The “stomach flu” that has been hitting the Chico area the last couple of months is not influenza.

The real flu is seven to ten days of high fever, headache, back and leg aches, cough, runny nose, congestion, sore throat, and just pure misery. We have 34,000 deaths per year on average in the U.S from influenza. Most of these are in the elderly or people with high risk conditions, but several hundred are in children and otherwise healthy teens and adults. Last year’s swine flu hit a lot more young and healthy people than usual.

It is especially important for the 6 month to 18 year olds to get the vaccine. Most epidemics get their start in the daycares, preschools and schools. Vaccinating the children has gotten rid of many other serious diseases in the U.S. - remember polio? It is estimated that if we can get 80% of the 6 month to 18 year olds immunized each year, we could break epidemic influenza in the UInited States. That would be huge.

Good hand washing and staying away from sick people can help. But the best chance you and your family have for avoiding the flu this season is to get the flu vaccine. The current recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control is that the flu vaccine is recommended for everyone older than six months of age. The people who are at high risk who should definitely get the flu vaccine are young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, immune system dysfunction, or heart and lung disease, household contacts of under 6 month old babies, health care workers, child care workers, people who live with high risk patients and people over 65 years of age.

There are two types of vaccine available this year. The traditional shot and a nasal spray vaccine. The people who can get the nasal spray vaccine are otherwise healthy people age 2-49. Anyone else should get the shot. This years flu vaccine has the H1N1 “swine” flu in it as well as two other strains that are likely to come through this winter.

There is a lot of confusion about the flu vaccine. The biggest myth I want to debunk is that the flu vaccine can make you sick or have more colds during the winter if you get it. This is simply
not the case. The flu shot is made of a few purified proteins from the virus - there is no live virus in it. The nasal spray is a weakened flu virus. It can cause some runny nose scratchy or sore throat or low grade fever in the few days after the vaccine, but will not cause full blown flu.

It takes two to four weeks after the vaccine to develop immunity. If you are exposed to the flu in the week before getting the vaccine or in the couple weeks after getting it, you may still catch it. The CDC makes an educated guess each year as to what strains of the flu virus to include in the vaccine. Usually they are right. If a different strain comes through, you may be unprotected even if you have had the shot.

In any case, the flu is a potentially serious illness. There is still time to get vaccinated. Call your physician, visit one of the pharmacies that is giving the vaccine, go to a flu clinic or check with the health department. I hope you have a healthy flu season!


What's Going Around 1-17-11

There is still some croup going around.

We are beginning to see quite a bit of

There is a little bit of Strep. throat around as well.

Welcome new readers!

This blog officially started on 1-1-11, but today is the day we are beginning to let people know about it in the office. If you are here for the first time, please take a look at the previous posts, the about this blog link to your right, the questions link and the privacy policy.

I hope you will find this a useful source of information and somewhere you can return from time to time for new and updated info. I will try to add at leasts two blogs per week and will add extra links as interesting information comes up.

Welcome and thanks for being here!

Craig Corp, MD

What's Going Around 1-10-11

This segment, which I intend to update roughly every other week, is designed to let parents be aware of what the most common infections I am seeing in the office at this time are.

This week, the most common illness going around is
croup - click here for detailed information

The other thing I am seeing a great deal of is
vomiting and diarrhea

Local News, Week of 1-10-11

Youth Agency Closed: Lack of funding shutters Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butte County - Yet another great loss for the Chico community because of the economy. Makes me wonder what might be next.

Enloe Childrens Center May Get a New Owner - Be aware that discussions between Enloe and Del Norte Clinics have barely begun. This is by NO means a “done deal”. Be assured that the I, and the rest of the Enloe Pediatric Department, will be actively involved in ay decision that is made. Our focus is always on what is best for the children and communities that we serve, not the bottom line. These, I’m sure, are the goals of Enloe and Del Norte as well, but the doctors that actually care for the children on a day to day basis probably have the best information to base a decision on.

New and Noteworthy 1-6-11

Journal: Study linking vaccine to autism was fraud - VERY important to know

ADHD children ‘have faulty off switch - This does NOT mean that we can use brain scans to diagnose ADHD yet, but it does make it clearer why children with this problem have the problems they do.

Babies given antibiotics may have a higher risk of developing asthma - this is only one of the reasons we are cautious with the use of antibiotics, particularly in young babies.


Office Closed

The office is closed today, Monday, January 3rd, 2011. We will reopen tomorrow, Tuesday the 4th.

If your child is ill and you have a question, still go ahead and call our office, there is always a nurse or doctor on call who can help you. If you think your child needs to be seen by a physician, call between 8 AM and noon to get an appointment with the pediatrician on-call in their office.

So, what's this blog about, anyway?

It has dawned on me that there is a lot of pediatric information available out there - on the web, in magazines and books, on television shows and advertising. It really is an overwhelming amount of material for a pediatrician to try to keep up with, let alone one of my patients or their parents.

On top of that, it is often hard to locate information specific to children in the greater Chico area. I am hoping to make this, as best I can, a “one stop shopping” site for that relevant info. Obviously, I can’t cover everything, but will try to choose what seems most relevant to my patients.

There is a separate, single entry, blog titled Questions (see the side bar). Here you can post questions that you would like me to address. I will do my best to provide an answer in a timely fashion on “Dr. Corp’s Blog”

Thank you for being here, I hope this is a useful venue for all of us to interact!

Happy New Year!

Happy 1/1/11 to everyone and welcome to the North Valley Kids Connection. I hope the new year finds you healthy and that the rest of 2011 be a wonderful one for your entire family.

I will begin to post more “official” blogs this coming week. For now, I just want to wish you the best of 2011.

A brief housekeeping note: the search function will not work until google indexes the site somewhere in the next week or two.