Third of parents may be 'unnecessarily giving children fever-reducing medicine'

No parent or caregiver wants to see their child sick or fighting a fever.

But according to a new poll conducted in the U.S., some parents may not be properly measuring or responding to elevated temperatures in little ones.

Following a survey of over 1,350 respondents, researchers from the University of Michigan Health reported that most parents recognise how a low-grade fever can help a child's body fight off infection, yet one in three would give fever-reducing medication for spiked temperatures below 100.4 F (38°C).

Approximately half of the parents would also use medicine if the fever was between 100.4 - 101.9 F degrees (38.8°C), and a quarter of parents would likely give another dose to prevent the fever from returning.

"Often parents worry about their child having a fever and want to do all they can to reduce their temperature. However, they may not be aware that in general the main reason to treat a fever is just to keep their child comfortable," said Dr Susan Woolford. "Some parents may immediately rush to give their kids medicine but it's often better to let the fever runs its course. 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."

In addition, the paediatrician emphasised that a fever can be "beneficial" and there are reasons to let a low-grade fever run its course in older children.

"Medications used to lower temperatures also treat pain, but pain is often a sign that helps to locate the source of an infection," she continued. "By masking pain, fever-reducing medication may delay a diagnosis being made and delay receiving treatment if needed."

Elsewhere in the report, the researchers urged parents to keep a log of temperature readings and times medicine was given in order to avoid overmedicating.

Parents of young children in particular should also avoid using combination cold medications along with fever-reducing medications due to the risk of overdosage.

"As we know, all medications can have side effects and we really don't want children to get too much medication when it's not necessary," Dr Woolford said, before emphasising that parents of newborns, babies, and toddlers should consult their doctor for advice on treating a fever. "Parents should also call if their child has signs of pain or if they are not acting themselves even when their temperature comes down."