I’ll never forget the first time my son spiked a 103-degree fever in the wee hours of the morning — and not just because it happened to be his first birthday. My baby was burning up and inconsolable, and as a nervous new mom, I immediately reached for the infant Tylenol. And I didn’t hesitate to dispense it every four hours or so, until his temperature returned to normal a day later.
Looking back, I don’t think I could have waited, watched and done nothing for my sick, feverish boy, knowing that the medicine would probably kick in quickly and make him more comfortable. But a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics says that far too many parents freak out about fever for no reason, and the group now advises that it’s often better not to treat a child when the thermometer is on the rise.
“Fever is the body’s normal response to infection — it’s a natural defense mechanism,” says Janice Sullivan, a professor of pediatric clinical care and clinical pharmacology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and a co-author of the report. She says that a high temperature triggers the body’s production of infection-fighting white blood cells and inhibits the growth of viruses and bacteria. “If you lower the fever, you may be affecting the body’s ability to respond to that infection.”