Chill Out, Parents: Fevers Are Good

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Attention all concerned parents: your child's brain will not "melt" from a fever--probably. In fact, fevers are kind of a good thing. This is a difficult message to get across to parents who naturally become frantic when their sick children heat up. Pediatrician and parent Perri Klass admits that despite knowing that a fever actually indicates a functioning immune system, she has also fallen prey to fear caused by a feverish child.

But as a New York Times contributor, Klass is here to tell freaked out parents to snap out of it--and pay attention to what really could be harming their children, such as dehydration and improper medicine dosages. "Fever can indeed be scary, and any fever in an infant younger than 3 months is cause for major concern because of the risk of serious bacterial infections," she concedes. "But in general, in older children who do not look very distressed, fever is positive evidence of an active immune system, revved up and helping an array of immunological processes work more effectively."

Klass also points out that though fevers can sometimes cause seizures, there is no risk of a fever causing harm to the brain or body. She explains:

As many as five percent of children are at risk for seizures with fever. These seizures can be terrifying to watch but generally are not harmful and do not cause epilepsy. Still, a child who has a first febrile seizure should be checked out by a physician. (These seizures tend to run in families, and children who have had one may well have another).

Klass cites several other doctors who have also grown a bit frustrated with the late night calls from parents panicked over a child’s fever. They propose increased education on the realities of a high temperature is the key to curing "fever phobia."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.