Nurse's Notes: Coughing & Fever
All about these scary symptoms
By Rachel Crockford, BSN, RN, TJS School Nurse
When your child comes home sick, your whole routine can be turned upside down. But when is it time to be really concerned or call the doctor? Read on for advice on when to call in reinforcements and when to let it pass.
Why Does It Happen?
Your body's temperature is controlled by the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is in the center of your brain. It acts as your body's thermostat. When germs enter the body, the hypothalamus increases your body's temperature. It is believed that the heat helps to fight off infection.
Should You Worry?
A fever is generally considered a temperature over 100.4 degrees. Here are a few helpful hints about when to call your doctor.
Call your doctor if:
- A fever lasts more than five days
- A fever is higher than 104 degrees
- A fever does not come down with fever reducers (Tylenol/Motrin)
- Your child is lethargic
- Your child is not consuming liquids or is showing signs of dehydration
- Your child has not voided in eight hours
- You are concerned
What is all the noise about?
Coughing can sound awful, but in most cases, it is not a critical symptom. Coughing is a reflex to keep your lungs and airway open. A cough can be persistent. It can last several weeks and get worse in cold weather and at night.
A cough may induce vomiting, which clears mucous from our bodies. This is actually helpful with small children who are unable to clear secretions with nose blowing.
What about THAT cough?
The infamous loud "barking" cough is usually indicative of upper airway swelling. Younger children are prone to this type of coughing. Humidifiers, steamy bathrooms and fresh cool air can alleviate these symptoms. Stridor, a whistling noise during exhale can accompany this type of cough.
A cough with a wheeze or increased effort to breathe may indicate a lower respiratory issue and should be examined by a medical professional.
Remember to keep children well-hydrated, elevate their head at rest and when in doubt have a medical professional examine them.
Want to learn more?
Watch the video below to listen to examples of coughing sounds.
- Top image via BabyCenter
This blog was originally shared in Nurse's Notes, a monthly newsletter by Nurse Rachel Crockford, BSN, RN.
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About the Author
Rachel is a registered nurse who earned her Bachelor of Science from Drexel University in Pennsylvania. She extensive nursing experience in pediatric care, and previously worked at an elementary school in Virginia Beach. Rachel's family moved here from the east coast, and her husband is pursuing his MBA at Rice University. She has two children, Duke and Colt.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Drexel University
Bachelor of Arts in History & Political Science