When your baby has a fever or cold, your first urge is to run right to the pediatrician. But, mild colds and fevers are common and often don’t require a visit to the doctor. They just demand care from home. Here are some techniques to help manage colds and fever of your baby at home and some information to help you know when to call the doctor.
First, most doctors don’t consider a fever under 100°F a fever at all unless your baby is under two months old, in which case you should seek medical treatment with any fever. Otherwise, as long as the fever doesn’t go above 102°F, you need not treat it unless it is making your baby uncomfortable or unable to sleep. However, the baby should be treated by a professional if its fever reaches 105° rectally or accompanies the signs of dehydration (infrequent urination, sunken fontanel, and dry lips). They should be taken to the doctors if the baby has a stiff neck or purple spots on the skin.
To treat mild fever, try keeping your baby cool by using compresses or a tepid bath. Dress her loosely – that old wives tale about keeping them bundled up is just about this. Feed her lots of fluids and keep a watch on her. But, try to avoid the use of over the counter medications unless your baby is unable to sleep. Fever is the body’s way of fighting infection, so it’s best to let it do its job if possible.
For minor colds, the best treatment is rest. However, your child may be unable to rest comfortably unless you treat the cold symptoms. A vaporizer can do wonders to relieve congestion as can vapor treatments in the bath. But, if your child is uncomfortable, using an over-the-counter cold medicine is fine. Follow the dosage guidelines, the doctor’s recommendations or those on the bottle, but go by weight, not age.
Colds should resolve themselves in a week or so, but if they do not, look for signs of an ear infection. These include unexplained crying, especially when you lie down, tugging the ears, or tossing and turning while trying to sleep. If you notice these symptoms, take your child to the doctor. Ear infections can be very painful and are often hard to recognize in young children.
Talk to your pediatrician for advice on treating colds and fevers when he believes you should call or come in. But, trust your instincts and don’t hesitate to call anytime you believe there is a real problem.