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1 in 3 parents use children's fever medication incorrectly, poll finds

Some parents give their child fever-reducing medication for a temperature below 100.4 degrees, but doctors consider anything over 100.4 a fever.
A sign is placed near the section for children's medicine
Posted at 12:58 PM, Feb 21, 2023

When parents have a sick child at home, they often want to intervene with medication to make them feel better.

But a new poll from the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children's Hospital says some parents are acting too soon and giving their child fever-reducing medication unnecessarily.

"I think it's just a lot of fear," Kat Lewitzke, a mom of two, said.

Having a sick kid at home can be nerve-racking, especially when you don't know what's wrong.

As a mom, Lewitzke can appreciate a parent who's just trying to do the right thing.

"Everyone is just trying to figure that out — whether it is trying an alternative remedy or giving your child the medication. Plus, most households you have two parents that work," Lewitzke said. "That is our household too, so I can understand that stress and that pressure."

According to Mott Children's Hospital, 1 in 3 parents give their child fever-reducing medication for a temperature below 100.4 degrees.

Anything over 100.4 degrees is what doctors consider a fever.

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"If we give medications for lower temperatures, we run the risk of giving too much medication when it is not needed, and as we know, all medications have side effects," Dr. Susan Woolford with UM Health said.

Woolford says a fever is actually the body fighting infection, and according to their poll, 9 in 10 parents do know that.

Mom Reese Schwartz says her medical training taught her a few go-to remedies.

"We just make sure we stay hydrated. Ice water is their favorite or even popsicles," she said. "Just rest and keeping an eye on it, so it doesn't get above that 101."

So, when should you be concerned and reach out to a child's health care provider?

Woolford says always call if they are under 3 months and exhibiting a fever.

"If they have a high temperature — 104 and above — you should call. If your child is less than 2 and they have a fever for more than 24 hours, you should call. Or if they are older than that but they have a fever for 48 hours, you should also call," Woolford said.

Swartz says it happened when her child was just over a year old. She was running a 103-degree fever and the medication didn't work.

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"We ended up taking her into the ER and she ended up having a double ear infection. They had us do a piggyback method where we switched Tylenol and ibuprofen to get her fever down," Schwartz said.

Woolford says the purpose of fever-reducing medication is mostly to make the child comfortable.

"Because we know our kids are fighting an infection and we are just trying to help them," Lewitzke said.

According to the poll, 26% of parents give their child a second dose of medication to prevent fever.

Woolford says once again, that is not its purpose. A fever is a symptom of the problem and not the problem itself.

She says the best course of action to avoid fevers is preventing infection.

"Hand hygiene is really important and if we can wear masks when appropriate, that's very helpful," Woolford said.

She also suggests keeping kids home from school when they are sick, getting them vaccinated and maintaining good sleep schedules and eating habits.