With the extended and extreme winter weather that has struck the lower mainland of BC, comes an unusual predominance and persistence of colds & flus, sinusitis infections and various other “bugs” that have affected several of my patients – young, old and middle-aged. What prompted me to write this article, is the number of cases of concerned and confused parents who bring their young children to me and don’t know what to do when they develop fevers when falling ill. When their child is ill and has a high fever, parents are naturally very concerned and simply want their child to feel better – quickly. Reaching for the acetaminophen (aka Tylenol) is so easy, so simple…and the scenario inside the parents’ head goes something like this: “my child is suffering with this fever, he/she is not eating, not sleeping well…if I give the acetaminophen he/she will feel better and (most importantly) the number on the thermostat will go down and guess what….I will feel better as a parent because I won’t have to watch my child suffer!!!”
That last statement is really key – often the child themselves is tolerating the fever just fine, but the parent on the other hand is definitely not. We call this parental “fever phobia” which has lead to the overuse of anti-fever medications (acetaminophen is the drug of choice for most parents) without a complete understanding of its consequences – both short and long term. My hope is that this article will accomplish 3 tasks: explain the significance of fever, how to manage a fever and side effects of overuse or misuse of anti-fever meds.