One in three reach for medication to give their children at temperatures below 100.4, despite knowing that a low-grade fever helps fight infection
“Some parents may immediately rush to give their kids medicine, but it’s often better to let the fever run its course,” Susan Woolford, M.D., codirector of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan Health in Ann Arbor, said in a statement. “Lowering a child’s temperature doesn’t typically help cure their illness any faster. In fact, a low-grade fever helps fight off the infection. There’s also the risk of giving too much medication when it’s not needed, which can have side effects.”
The poll surveyed nearly 1,400 parents of children aged 12 years and younger between August and September 2022.
The results showed that even though parents recognize the benefits of a low-grade fever for fighting off infection, about one-third would still give their child fever-reducing medication at temperatures below 100.4. Half would do so at a temperature between 100.4 and 101.9, while about one-quarter of parents would give another dose later to help prevent a fever from returning.
The most common way of taking their children’s temperature among polled parents was by forehead scan or mouth. Fewer than one-sixth used ear, underarm, or rectal methods. About two-thirds of parents said they would use a cool washcloth on their child before giving the child fever-reducing medication. Most said they always or usually record the time of each dose and retake their child’s temperature before giving another dose.
“Medications used to lower temperatures also treat pain, but pain is often a sign that helps to locate the source of an infection,” Woolford said. “By masking pain, fever-reducing medication may delay a diagnosis being made and delay receiving treatment if needed.”