Being a single mother, like me, means sometimes having to take care of a sick child when you’re sick, too, without anyone there who can help or reassure you. Even if you’re married or have a partner, dealing with a fever in an infant or toddler – especially if you’re a first-time parent – can be a scary thing. Sure, if your child comes down with a fever in the middle of the day you can talk to your doctor or a school nurse, but what do you do when that fever hits in the evening or in the middle of the night? You turn to the Internet.
Or at least that’s what I did when my 6-year-old daughter and I both had high fevers the same week last month. I hadn’t experienced a fever like that in a long time, and predictably I thought I was facing my last moments on earth. My face was so flush I started to get welts and my lips and tongue were burning up to the point that I thought I might spontaneously combust. I got hit with the fever first, and I was delirious and alone after my daughter fell asleep, frantically Googling “103.5 fever am I dying.” I got directed to the usual sites: WebMD, Mayo Clinic, Wikipedia. (You know, the best medical authorities on the web. Wikipedia: you can diagnose your fever and read about Peggy Lee’s “Fever” all in the same place!) I also found a few hippie-dippie sites recommending strange herbs that I was pretty sure aren’t sold at the bodega across the street, but that assured me I was not dying. I stayed calm and engaged by live-tweeting my temperature as it slowly fell over the course of a few hours, cracking jokes like, “Man, this fever is like Bikram without the workout!” (But really, I figured if I was going to die, at least if I were on Twitter I’d die surrounded by “friends.”)
Eventually my fever broke, just in time for my daughter to hit 102.5 the next night. I was terrified but I knew that kids sometimes get high fevers and that fever is the body’s way of fighting off illness, so I tucked her in bed, covered her in a light sheet and wet her forehead a bit with a washcloth. She slept only on and off all night, and in the morning we called the doctor. We saw him in the afternoon and he told me her fever might spike, but I was shocked when I saw the thermometer reach 104.
I called the doctor’s office. “I know you said the fever might spike, but it’s at 104. Does she need to go to the hospital?” He assured me that everything was fine, that I should give her a children’s fever reducer and just hang tight. Keep her cool with a washcloth and wait. I had to sweat it out, both literally and metaphorically, but it worked.
If you’re facing a fever in your child, of course call your doctor first, then browse through Babble’s Fever Guide. It has all kinds of advice about how to make your child feel comfortable while (s)he’s sick, what to feed a child with a fever and when to worry.