Here are some techniques to help manage colds and fever 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, any fever which reaches 105° rectally, or a fever accompanied by signs of dehydration (infrequent urination, sunken fontanel, dry lips), or a feverish baby who has a stiff neck, is limp or has purple spots on the skin, should be treated by a professional immediately.
To treat a mild fever, try keeping your baby cool, using compresses or a tepid bath. Dress her loosely – that old wives tale about keeping them bundled up is just that- an old wives tale. 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, when possible, it’s best to let it do its job.
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 really uncomfortable, using an over the counter cold medicine is fine. For dosage guidelines, follow your 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 can include unexplained crying, especially when lying 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 regarding his recommendations for treating colds and fevers, and 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.