What to Do When Your Child Is Sick

Source: Sendai City Hospital Emergency & Critical Care Center
This document prepared with the cooperation of Miyagi Network for Children

HOME > Fever


What is a fever?

A fever is classified as an under-the-arm temperature of over 37.5˚ Celsius. A fever is evidence that your child’s body is fighting a viral or bacterial infection. A fever is not inherently harmful, as it plays an important role in strengthening the body’s immune system. In the event that your child develops a fever, it isn’t necessary to rush to a hospital. A high fever in itself will not cause brain damage. Please use the following information when deciding whether or not to seek medical advice.

Most hospitals are closed at night and on holidays. If your child is showing only mild symptoms (as listed below) at night or on a holiday, you should consult your pediatrician the following business day.

  • Your child is eating and taking fluids, even if only in small amounts.
  • Your child is able to sleep at night.
  • Your child interacts with you by laughing and attempting to play.
  • Your child is not in that bad of a mood.
  • Although your child may have fever-induced shivers, (s)he is fully conscious.

If your child has the following symptoms on a weekday during operating hours, seek medical attention.
At night or on a holiday, please call a medical institution for advice.
There are some cases where visiting a doctor can wait until the following day, and some cases where a night visit is necessary.

  • Your child will not take food or water.
  • Urination occurs only once in a half-day period or urine color is darker than usual.
  • A fever of over 38˚ Celsius in children under 3 months of age.
  • A body temperature over 41˚ Celsius.
  • A seizure lasting 2-3 minutes.
  • A sudden high fever accompanied by unusual actions( hallucinations and abnormal speech or behavior).
  • You have sought medical attention, but your child’s fever lasts several days and (s)he appears exhausted.

In the following situations call an ambulance immediately (119):

  • Your child is unconscious.
  • Your child has symptoms of a "febrile seizure."

You should check your child’s normal body temperature by measuring his/her temperature at around the same time each day.

What to do if your child has a fever

Is your child shivering?
Is your child sweating?

If your child is shivering, there is a possibility that his/her temperature will rise. In such circumstances, (s)he may feel cold and it is advisable to warm his/her body using a towel or blanket. If (s)he is sweating, then his/her temperature has already peaked in most cases. To make sure that he/she is not too hot, use a thin towel or blanket.

How to cool your child’s body

We recommend you cool your child’s body (head, neck, underarms, groin, etc.). If you choose to use an ice pack you should cover it with a towel or gauze and make sure it does not directly touch the skin.

Many people say, “My child’s temperature has not come down, even after taking medication.”

Your child will not get better immediately just because (s)he has taken prescribed medication. The medicine will take effect after continuous use. Therefore, there are cases in which the fever will remain high, even after taking medicine. As the medicine will not take effect immediately, it is important to maintain fluid intake in order to prevent dehydration.

How to use a suppository and antifebrile (fever reducer)

As long as your child is eating and drinking, in a good mood and sleeping well, there is no need to reduce his/her temperature with medication. It is rather hard on a child’s body to have another fever after his/her temperature has been reduced by medicine. You should use a suppository or anti-febrile only when your child has a fever of 38.5˚ Celsius or higher and when (s)he is not eating/drinking or not sleeping well. Please note that a suppository or anti-febrile is not a cure and will only relieve symptoms.

What is a “febrile seizure”?

Febrile seizures are convulsions brought on by a fever of 38˚ Celsius or higher. Three to four percent of children aged five years or younger have febrile seizures and it is said approximately one third of them have the seizures repeatedly. As their brain cells are still immature, they can be stimulated by a fever, causing convulsions.

What will happen?

  • In most cases, the child’s arms and legs become stiff and then begin to shake.
  • The child's eyes may roll back and his/her lips may become purple in color.
  • The child loses consciousness and does not respond when his/her name is called.

What to do when your child has a febrile seizure

Most febrile seizures stop after 2-3 minutes, and it is rare that a seizure lasts longer.

  • Stay calm, loosen your child’s clothing, and place his/her body on the floor, turning his/her face to the side. Move potentially dangerous items away from his/her body.
  • Monitor at what time the seizure began, how long it lasted and what exactly happened during the seizure.
  • It is best not to stimulate your child during and after convulsions. If you talk to him/her in a loud voice or shake his/her body, his/her brain may become agitated and the convulsions may not stop. You should let him/her sleep quietly after the convulsions subsist.
  • Do not place anything in your child’s mouth. It is actually more dangerous if you place fingers or other items in your child’s mouth for him/her to bite.

Make a call to get emergency advice and see a doctor immediately if…

  • The seizure lasts for five minutes or longer.
  • Your child remains unconscious and seizures repeat at short intervals.
  • Your child has a generalized convulsion with a particularly strong convulsion in one part of the body.
  • Your child’s first seizure happened when (s)he was less than a year old.
  • ・ Your child does not regain consciousness or seems paralyzed.

*If your child has had a febrile seizure before and your doctor provided directions on what to do, follow those directions.