News & Events

Virus going around, but children are resilient

August 27, 2012

By: Tim Sullivan, MD
Pediatrician with the Norwich Pediatric Group and the Backus Hospital Medical Staff

The cold and flu season isn’t even here yet, but some of us are already dealing with our little ones suffering from high fevers, sneezing and coughing.

We’ve been seeing a good deal of this locally, with children being sent home from daycare and parents calling our answering services at all hours wondering whether they should take their children to the ER when they spike a high fever.

In general, the answer to that question is no. High fevers, even those around 104 degrees or more, are the body’s way of fighting off sickness. When that sickness is viral, there is no antibiotic to make them better. If it is bacterial, then antibiotics can help.

But the bottom line is unless the child is not drinking, not urinating, having trouble breathing or acting strangely, the ER is probably not the place to go.

Making an appointment with his or her pediatrician might be your best bet. After they determine whether the sickness is viral or bacterial, here are a few tips:

  • Make sure you push fluids as much as possible. The more they drink the better hydrated they are and the better the chances of getting well.
  • Make sure they get plenty of rest. A dose or two of Motrin or Tylenol might mask symptoms and give the false impression that they are better. Later, when it wears off, they pay the price.
  • Don’t worry too much about eating. Drinking lots of fluids is key. They generally make up for any weight loss after they are well.
  • Dress them in thin layers of clothing. Wrapping them in thick clothes and many blankets can do more harm than good.
  • Try a lukewarm bath or shower. That can help with the fever.
  • Check with a pediatrician on the use of medicine like Tylenol or Motrin.
  • Pay close attention to the directions on medicine bottles. If you are alternating medicines, write down time and dose.


My final words of wisdom are to stay calm. If you are stressed, your child’s anxiety level might increase in reaction to what they see from you. And remember — children are remarkably resilient. The 104 degree fever might be scary, but it will be gone before you know it.