A fever (or temperature) is a rise in your internal body temperature, which usually rests at approximately 37’c. A rise to 38’c and over is considered a fever. A fever is your body’s way of communicating that something is not right.
Don’t reach for the Calpol just yet! The reason that your body raises its temperature is to help fight off illnesses. It is important not to be too “trigger happy” with medicines, as your body needs a chance to fight things off itself.
Focus on your child; if your child feels warm or the thermometer reads that they have a high temperature, but your child is happily running around and playing with no complaints, eating and drinking well, and seems no different at all to how they normally are, it might be too soon to treat their fever. Most fevers pass in a few days without causing distress. However, in some cases you might not even need to look at your thermometer; you can see immediately that your child has a fever and when you take the reading no doubt this will be confirmed. It is then important to know what is the cause: is it teething problems? Are there other symptoms? Some children are very unwell with a fever as little as 37.9’c, and some can be happily playing with a temperature of 38.5’c. All children are different, and that is why it is important to read your child first, not the thermometer.
It is important to know if your child is allergic or sensitive to the medicines before you give them. Be sure to note the ingredients of what you are giving so that you don’t accidently give them two different medicines containing the same thing. In very high fevers some medicines work well if given together rather than spacing them out, for example, paracetamol (Calpol) and ibuprofen (Nurofen). Keep a record of what drugs were given and at what times; when little ones are ill it is easy to forget what happens when. Make sure you are clear on the correct doses and how the drugs should be taken. It is also a good idea to read the information leaflet of any medicines you give, as this will tell you the common side effects of the drug and how it is best taken.
Non-drug treatment of fevers can include: removing layers of clothes (sometimes even down to nappy), wearing light breathable cotton, opening windows to allow fresh air in, hydration with cool liquids, intermittent exposure to cooling air such as a fan. It is NOT advised to place children in cold water to bring down their fevers, as this can result in shock.
Trust your instincts as parents and seek medical advice where needed.
Q I’m in my final year at school, and I am really finding it difficult to deal with all the pressures I find myself under. Between exams, projects, presentations, gap year and university applications, and all the in-between, I am crumbling under the pressure and exhausted. Can you suggest anything to help me better deal with my stress?
A There is a lot going on in your life at the moment and this can be very overwhelming. I’m sure there are many people in your position who feel the same way. When people ask me how to eat a giant, I answer, one bite at a time. There is only so much time in the day and only so much you can do at once. Rest is vitally important to your well-being, as is taking time out to do things you enjoy. It’s easy to lose sight of our hobbies and the things we love doing at times like these, but it’s during these times that it’s most important that we spend time doing these things. They will help you de-stress and feel better equipped to deal with everything else. There are other strategies to use – such as exercise and spending time with friends and family. Don’t underestimate the emotional support that those close to you can provide, and don’t be ashamed to lean on them during these challenging times. It’s important to look after your body too at this time – eating healthy foods, staying well hydrated and making sure your immune system is strong. Over and above, try to keep perspective. I know this is probably the most stressful thing that may have happened in your life so far, but like everything, this too shall pass and you will get through it.
Q My mother is 76 years old, and over the past year I have noticed a severe decline in her mobility and balance. She used to walk without any assistance but now uses two sticks to help her with support and balance. She has had a few falls now, and I am becoming increasingly worried that she might seriously injure herself in the future. Is there any recommendation to help her with balance and prevent future falls?
A This is a very common problem found in the elderly population. The general causes of falls are multi-factorial. The most common things we would advise reviewing via her GP are the following:
• Her chronic medications. Poly-pharmacy in the elderly is common, and often drugs that may not be needed are continued indefinitely. Medications for high blood pressure are common and can cause the blood pressure to drop significantly, especially when people rise up to standing from lying or sitting. We call this a postural drop in blood pressure, and it can predispose falls. There are many other drugs that may be implicated, so the GP should rationalise all of her medications.
• Hearing and vision are known to deteriorate with age. Impaired sight can obviously lead to falls, as people may not notice things on the floor and trip, or they may miss a step that they might not see. Impaired hearing can also cause falls, as warning sounds of oncoming traffic or doors opening for example may not be heard.
• In general balance also tends to become impaired slowly as the brain ages. This can make people unsteady on their feet. They could benefit from a proper balance assessment, which is usually performed by a physiotherapist. They may suggest a walking aid such as a stick or walking frame. Elderly people are often resistant to using these aids in the beginning, but as time goes on they realise that they are in fact beneficial for them and often agree to use them, especially when walking outside of the home.
The above are basic measures that can be checked in order to try to prevent falls. These can all be facilitated by your GP.