By Emsie Martin
This is any working mother’s nightmare, no matter whether you are office-bound or practising any other profession. Especially during this time when children may not attend school with a runny nose, fever or any other symptom and when there is no support system, it can be quite a problem. Fever is so ominous and not all children react to it in the same way.
What is fever?
It is a normal, healthy reaction when the body fights an infection. Bacteria and viruses that cause illnesses flourish under normal body temperature, but high temperatures prevent them from multiplying. Fever, therefore, is an indication of an illness and not an illness ITSELF.
What happens in the body when a child is feverish?
It is an anti-inflammatory reaction that indicates that the body is fighting something. The fever is treated because the child feels off-colour, but it is of the utmost importance that the cause of the fever also be treated.
According to Dr Etienne Bruwer, a paediatrician at Mediclinic Durbanville, a body temperature of 36.6ºC is considered normal and anything from 37.5ºC to 42ºC is considered to be a fever.
If your child is red in the face and has a rapid heart beat, he has a fever, as simple as that. The child abouy whom you need to be more concerned, is the one who does not necessarily have a fever, but vomits, doesn’t eat or drink and is just lying down.
Children who are dressed too warmly can also experience a rise in body temperature and Dr Bruwer warns that old batteries in a thermometer can also cause a lower temperature to be indicated instead of the actual temperature.
Causes of fever
Usually fever is a symptom of a bacterial of viral infection and can indicate anything from a urinary tract infection to meningitis. If a child has an inexplicable fever every two weeks or monthly, it has to be investigated.
Before considering any medication, remove a layer of the child’s clothing to help him cool off.
Move him to a cool area and give him something cold to drink.
“Don’t put him in a cold bath,” says Dr Bruwer. “Always use luke-warm water.”
Babies younger than three months old who have fever must be taken to a doctor immediately. If your child is feverish but still eats and drinks it probably is less serious.
Seeing the doctor
If the fever lasts for more than 48 hours, however, it has to be investigated. Immediate medical attention is required if the child vomits or has severe diarrhoea, has difficulty breathing, has a rash, headache or stiff neck, or blue lips. Keep a lookout for signs of dehydration.
Treating a fever
Make sure your child takes in sufficient fluids and gets enough rest.
As fever mostly indicates a viral or bacterial infection, the infection needs to be treated. Bacterial infections such as ear infection or tonsillitis are treated speedily with paracetamol, anti-inflammatory medication and antibiotics, while viral infections such as ‘flu, upper-airways infection and stomach viruses sometimes require hospitalisation to keep your child comfortable and hydrated.
Medication is mostly administered as suppositories and the dosage depends on your child’s weight.
Does it count as sick leave?
In general parents are unsure and often ask, “If I take time off from work to take care of my child who is ill, may I take it as sick leave?”
Section 22 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act regulates an employee’s sick leave, the purpose of which is to afford it to the employee when the employee is unable to work due to illness, not when the employee’s child is ill. This is why an employee cannot utilise sick leave when his or her child is ill.
Legislation does make provision for a specific kind of leave if, among others, an employee’s child is ill. Section 27 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act provides for leave for family responsibility.
3.5.1 Full-time employees are on request entitled to three days’ paid leave per year, when the employee’s child is born or ill, or in the case of the death of an employee’s spouse or life-partner or the employee’s parent, adopted parent, grandparent, child, adopted child, grandchild or brother or sister.
3.5.2 An employer can request reasonable proof.
In short, it remains a nightmare for any parent when his or her child falls ill.
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