by Dr. A. Gabriel Schifman, Medical Director, Pediatric ER at Overland Park Regional Medical Center
When Fever Strikes: offer plenty of fluids, dress your child in lightweight clothing, let your child eat what they want, give acetaminophen or ibuprofen, make sure your child gets plenty of rest

Which pain reliever do you reach for when your child has a fever, an earache or a headache? There's a good chance it's the same one your parents gave you. Most contain either ibuprofen (its familiar brand name is Motrin) or acetaminophen (yes, that's Tylenol). While there's no shame in brand loyalty, you should always consider what the best strategy is for your child’s health. Here are six tips for giving children ibuprofen or acetaminophen:

  • Never give your child any kind of aspirin – not even baby aspirin, which is not for babies. Aspirin can cause Reye's syndrome. Many of you might remember taking baby aspirin in your own childhood, but that was before anyone knew better; baby aspirin is not for babies or children under 16.
  • Always treat your child, not the fever. If your child has a mild fever, but appears happy and playful, it may not be necessary to give your child a fever reducer. Germs don't like higher body temperatures, so if your child is fighting an infection and does not seem uncomfortable, forgo the meds. The immune system has warmed up and is doing its work.
  • Do not give ibuprofen to infants under six months old or to children who are dehydrated or vomiting. It can cause gastritis and stomach pains.
  • Don't give your child acetaminophen unless you're certain of the dose, and never give it for more than five days in a row. With care, acetaminophen can usually be given to young children, even infants, but always check with your pediatrician first. Acetaminophen is used to treat mild to moderate pain and fever. It does have the benefit of coming in a suppository form, which can be helpful if your child is vomiting or refusing to take medications by mouth.
  • As always, be very careful with dosing. If you give your child medicine on your own, always follow the dosing instructions on the label. In certain situations, your pediatrician might recommend a different dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen than what the label recommends, depending on your child's condition. In that case, follow your doctor's instructions to the letter.

The next time your child has a fever, follow these tips to stay calm, ease your child’s symptoms and help revitalize their health! 

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