There is an inevitable chain of thought that comes with the onset of a fever in your little one. Kiss the forehead. Oh, that's hot. Take their temperature. Definitely a fever. Should I give them medicine? It's all part of parenting protocol, right? But every parent has their own method for treating their children, whether it's a handy trick for administering medicine or a cure-all cold compress. Some parents stand by acetaminophen, while others opt for Motrin, or alternate the two. But is alternating Tylenol and Motrin for fever in a child safe? Experts say it's important to first assess the nature of the fever.
"When dealing with fever, it is most important that parents treat their child based on how they look rather than just treating the number on the thermometer," says Texas-based Dr. Eboni Hollier, who is board-certified in both general and developmental and behavioral pediatrics, in a Romper email interview. "Some parents choose to alternate the medications acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) to treat fever."
But Hollier says it's important to first keep in mind that not every fever needs to be treated with medicine. "It is important that parents monitor their child's condition, including their activity level and how well they are drinking," she says. "If your child is acting well, playful, and staying well hydrated, treating the fever is not necessary and many recommend letting the fever do its work rather than treating it with medication when this is the case."
A fever, Hollier explains, is a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and a sign that your child's body is fighting an infection. Medication, like Motrin and Tylenol, is to be used to reduce fever to make your child more comfortable and not simply to get your child's temperature down to the normal range. "It's important for parents to remember that a fever is not dangerous and usually goes away on its own without medication," Hollier says.
If you do decide to treat your child's fever and opt to alternate between acetaminophen and ibuprofen, Hollier adds that there are some tips to help you do so safely. First of all, be sure to check the dosing on the package label and give the dose that is appropriate for your child's age and weight. Make sure to also use the dropper or medicine cup included with the medication to ensure that you accurately measure the medication. Also important? "Always keep a log of which medication you give with the time and amount of medication that you gave," Hollier says. "Keep this some place where you can be sure to find it, like on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror."
The pattern for giving a child medicine involves starting with one medication and giving the second one after three to four hours, Hollier says. "For example, if you give acetaminophen at 6:00 AM, you may give ibuprofen at 9:00 AM, and then acetaminophen again at noon, and so forth," she explains. "Remember that ibuprofen should not be given to children less than 6 months of age." It is also crucial to remember that if your child is younger than 3 months old, you should always contact your child's pediatrician and if you can not reach them, have your child evaluated in the emergency department, Hollier says.
As always, if your child's appearance worries you, then you should contact your pediatrician. What's more, Hollier says, treating your child's fever with medication for longer than three days warrants a call to your pediatrician for advice.
And remember that when it comes to the health of your kid, there are no silly questions. So, if your little one is sick and something is nagging you, then pick up the phone.
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