A concerned mom, Priya, recently rushed to my clinic. Everyone in the waiting room could see the panic on her face. When she came inside the consultation room, she seemed a lot worried for her 2 year old girl who was suffering from fever for the past 2 days.
It is not uncommon to see patients of fever in pediatric age group. Nothing distresses parents like their child suffering and crying in fever. Just as with Priya, there is a certain element of phobia associated with fever. But most of the people don’t know that this fear of fever is exaggerated and unfounded. Fever is actually body’s response to infection. Whenever our body is invaded by an infective agent like a virus or a bacteria, the body’s defense mechanism produces certain chemicals (called interleukins and tumornecrosis factor). These chemicals cause our body’s defense mechanism to go on and fight the infective agents.
What I tell my patients like Priya is the temperature control centre in our brain acts like a thermostat and doesn’t allow body’s temperature to fluctuate normally. But when the infection-triggered chemicals are released, they reset the temperature control centre. This results in a higher body temperature.Thus fever is actually a sign of body’s healthy defense mechanism. Due to increased body temperature, muscular activity is also increased. This increased activity manifests as rigors or shivering, as we call it. Muscle ache, bodypain and excessive sleepiness is also caused due to the release of certain defense chemicals.
When I explained these things to Priya, the first question she put up was something we all worry usually. Can fever lead to body organ damage? Most parents are worried about fever causing brain damage of their young children. This is a rootless fear. Fever doesn’t cause brain damage. Brain damage is more likely to occur if there is infection of the brain or its coverings specifically. This infection is called encephalitis or meningitis.
The other common concern that affects some children is convulsions i.e abnormal body movements. Its not as dangerous as people mostly think. Generally, it lasts for less than 5 minutes and does not carry any long term adverse effects. Commonly, the convulsions have stopped by the time the child is brought to the doctor. The child can recover to complete normalcy after a proper consultation with the doctor.
When I explained these things to Priya, she actually realized that fever is a guarding system, not an enemy as we all think. While it’s very important to consult your doctor when your child experiences a fever episode, there’s nothing to panic. Be easy, give adequate home care and follow your doctor’s advice.
In his next post Dr.Sanwar Agrawal will write about ways to tackle fever and alarming signs of complications in children. Stay tuned for his next post on easy ways to manage fever.
Dr. Sanwar Agrawal is the Director of Ekta Institute of Child Health and a renowned pediatrician of the city. After completing his post graduation from PGIMER Chandigarh, one of the best institutions in the country, he contributed remarkably in the field of health. Dr. Sanwar travels across the country for his expert talks on pediatric health. In his artcles he gives us an understanding of the most common health problems in children.
Connect to your hero Dr. Sanwar at firstname.lastname@example.org