Temperature control in the body

The ‘core temperature’ means the temperature of the deep tissues of the body and in normal circumstances this is kept at a very even level by a range of automatic adjustments.

When we are too hot we increase the amount of blood flowing through the skin by opening up the tiny capillary blood vessels. This radiates away excess heat and sweating can further enhance this.

When we are too cold we shut down skin blood vessels and conserve heat within the internal organs. If necessary we can generate more heat by shivering.

Fever is part of the body’s defense mechanism against viruses or bacteria . The body tries to create extra heat so that the foreign organism cannot survive. Having a temperature helps you fight illness.

Actions to reduce a fever can help make someone feel more comfortable but it is not desirable to aim to normalise the temperature while someone is fighting off an infection.

The part of the human brain that controls body temperature is not fully developed in children. This means that a child’s temperature may rise and fall very quickly and the child is sensitive to the temperature of his or her surroundings.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to help a child with a fever feel more comfortable is to take off some of the child’s clothes so heat can escape from their body more easily.

Taking a temperature

If you take the temperature in your child’s mouth or from the ear, the normal temperature is 36-37ºC (96.8-98.6ºF). If taken under the arm a ‘normal reading would be 36.5-37.5ºC. Thermometer strips that are placed on the child’s forehead are a rough guide only.

Most of the time the exact level of a child’s temperature is not particularly important, unless it is very high (39ºC/102.2ºF or over taken from the mouth or ear).

In practical terms the temperature reading will be enough to give an indication of whether a fever is present and whether it is a dangerous temperature that needs close monitoring and management.

Ear temperature

  • If you are willing to pay for an ear thermometer, this is a very quick method and will give a read-out in seconds. Ear thermometers rely on measuring infrared (heat) radiation from the eardrum.
  • Other types of thermometer (such as the probe type) are not suitable for taking ear readings and must never be placed within the ear canal. Some ear thermometers are adjustable so they can be made suitable for adults or children.
  • To get a reliable temperature measurement, the thermometer must be used exactly as directed.
  • When you buy the thermometer, ask the salesperson how to use it, and read the instructions carefully before you start.
  • Especially with small children, ear thermometers require a steady hand to find the right spot.
  • The ear canal has a natural curve, so to ensure that the thermometer is pointing towards the eardrum it may be necessary to pull the top part of your child’s ear gently upwards during the reading.
  • If your child has been lying with their head on a warm pillow, or has just come inside out of the cold, you will need to wait 10 to 15 minutes before the ear can provide an accurate measurement of body temperature.

Under the armpit

  • This method is not good for small children, since they will not stay still for long enough.
  • With children old enough to co-operate and keep still you need to keep the thermometer under their armpit for at least 2-5 minutes depending on the thermometer.
  • From the mouth
  • This method is not suitable for a young child, because they tend to bite the thermometer.
  • The thermometer is placed in the mouth, under the tongue.
  • It will take two to three minutes to measure the temperature accurately.
  • If your child has just eaten anything hot or cold, you will need to wait 10 minutes before an accurate temperature can be taken.

What can I do if my child has a temperature?

    • Give plenty of fluids
    • A child with a high temperature needs more liquid than usual, because the fever will make them sweat a lot.

When is a fever critical?

  • Look at your child and use your intuition. Do they look exhausted or ill? Are they behaving differently? If so it may be a good idea to consult an appropriate health professional.
  • You think your baby is becoming dehydrated
  • You have a young child, less than 6 months old, who has a fever of 39ºC (102.2ºF) or more.
  • Your child cries and cries, without you being able to comfort them, and doesn’t wake up easily.
  • Your child has a temperature over 38ºC (101.3ºF) for more than three days.
  • Your child has just had an operation.
  • Your child doesn’t seem to be getting better.

If your child experiences any of the following symptoms with a fever, call your local hospital immediately:

  • Stiff neck
  • Affected by bright light
  • Hallucinations
  • Red rash or blue/purple dots or patches
  • Trouble breathing

Seek help if:

  • You notice any of the above signs
  • Your baby under six months old has a fever. An older baby has a fever of over 40°C (104°F) that doesn’t respond to sponging and homeopathic treatment
  • There is a history of convulsions accompanying fevers in your family. Keep a close eye when your baby has a fever-it is the rapid rise in temperature that can cause a fit
  • The baby or older child is also refusing to drink (is thirst less) as dehydration can occur. Signs of dehydration are: limpness, poor muscle tone, sunken eyes, a sunken fontanel Small children who develop a fever, especially infants under six months old, must be watched carefully because they are vulnerable to becoming quickly dehydrated
  • There is a general lack of reaction (listlessness and limpness) and your baby is distressed, which can mean that a more serious illness (such as pneumonia or meningitis) is developing
  • You are worried and need reassurance about your sick baby-contact your health professional immediately, it is always better to be on the safe side when it comes to your baby’s health

What you can do:

  • Make sure your baby drinks plenty of liquids – a teaspoonful every few minutes, if necessary. Provided they drink plenty of liquids, it won’t matter too much if they eat very little for a couple of days.
  • Rest-A child with a high temperature also needs rest and sleep. They do not have to be in bed all day if they feel like playing, but they must have the opportunity to lie down.

 

Body temperature

  • You do NOT sweat out a fever. If your child shivers while their temperature is rising, it’s okay to cover them with a light blanket.
  • Your child only needs to wear underwear or a nappy, which will help the heat escape from the body. Make sure their room is ventilated and cool, but not draughty.
  • Give lots of cuddles- Sick children are often tired and bad-tempered. They sleep a lot and when they are awake; they want their parents around all the time. They may need extra cuddles and reassurance.

Reflexology

See Using reflexology with babies for general guidelines and safety considerations.

Many reflexologists believe that reflexology should not be carried out during an active fever since fever is a sign that the body is healing itself and others believe a small amount can help a great deal. If you decide that reflexology is a good choice for your little one, be careful not to do too much, so as not to over stimulate an already busy system.

This routine may be used to help to fight inflammation, control body temperature, improve immune response and stimulate lymph to aid in killing bacteria and viruses.

1. Relax both feet with relaxation techniques and end with a thumb press on the solar plexus point in both feet.

2. Work the points suggested below. Use the chart below to locate the points. Be sure to use relaxation techniques intermittently throughout the routine, some of the spots may be tender.

  • Thyroid area
  • Lymph drainage in neck
  • Hypothalamus
  • Pituitary
  • Spleen
  • Liver
  • Adrenals
  • Lymph area in groin
  • Pituitary

3. End with relaxation techniques and thumb press on the solar plexus point in both feet.

Aromatherapy

See Using aromatherapy with Infants for general guidelines and safe usage instructions.

Eucalyptus oil in a massage oil or as a bath is cooling for a fever and helps to fight infections.

Homoeopathy

See Using homoeopathy for Infants for general guidelines and safety considerations.

Aconite

  • This fever comes on suddenly, often after a chill (especially from a cold wind).
  • Baby is fine on going to bed and then wakes around midnight with a high fever.
  • Hot and sweaty and thirsty, kicks the blankets off and then feels cold. The cheeks alternate between being hot and red and pale and ghostly or one cheek may be hot and red if it is a teething fever.
  • Restless and distressed, you suspect that your baby may have a pain somewhere.

Belladonna

  • Fevers calling for Belladonna come on suddenly
  • Baby gets so hot that you can feel heat radiating from the body
  • It is a dry heat (without sweating) and can alternate with chills
  • The child may become delirious, the pupils are more dilated than usual and may be grinding it’s teeth (or gums!)

Chamomilla

  • Fevers in teething babies, or those that accompany an earache or sore throat
  • Baby is very hard to please, wants to be carried constantly but even that doesn’t help much, she cries and shouts a lot and may even hit out
  • There are red, round patches on one or both cheeks
  • The face can be hot whilst the body is cold

Phosphorus

  • For fevers in babies who do not appear as ill as they should!
  • Appetite doesn’t change
  • Will play happily in spite of a moderate to high fever
  • A dry, burning fever with a thirst, especially for cold drinks

Pulsatilla

  • Fever in teething babies or those who are coming down with an infection
  • Gets easily overheated, kicks the covers off and then gets cold
  • These babies refuse drinks and are much better for fresh air
  • They want to be cuddled constantly and feel better for it