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Fever

 

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The normal temperature of a child is considered to be 37C (98.6F) if taken orally. If your child's temperature registers higher than this, she is considered to be feverish. A fever is not so much an illness but a signal that the body is trying to fight off something that shouldn't be there and is assisting the healing process through a natural means. Its cause is usually a bacterial or viral infection.

The fever is caused by a chemical reaction that takes place while the immune army tries to destroy the invader. This causes the release of chemicals called pyrogens, which raise your child's body temperature. This helps the immune army in several ways. At a raised temperature your child's body produces more white blood cells, and her heart beats faster, making the blood pump around the body more quickly. This means that the white blood cells can travel to the site of infection faster. The heat produced by the fever also increases antibody production and interferon activity.

While a fever is present, do not encourage your child to eat sweet and fatty foods. Eating requires digestion and this takes up a great deal of energy that should be directed toward the healing process. Offer plenty of fluids, including water, diluted fruit juices, soups and broths, to prevent dehydration. This is very important as a feverish child will lose body fluids quickly.

Childhood fevers usually resolve themselves fairly rapidly. Only if a temperature appears to be spiralling out of control do you need worry. Never hesitate to seek medical help in cases of high fever or, indeed, if you are worried about your child's condition. If a fever is accompanied by a headache, sensitivity to bright lights, body rashes and a sore, stiff neck then consult your doctor immediately as these can be symptoms of meningitis, which is a medical emergency.

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Extracted from Immunity Foods for Healthy Kids by Lucy Burney, text 2004, published by Duncan Baird Publishers, London.

 
 
 

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