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Burning Up

Matt and I have spent the last few days in a clinic on fever, and we’re more than eager for class to be out.

Simon arrived home from school Friday with quite a fever. We gave him some Tylenol, and he spent the next four hours laying back against me on the couch “watching” the Dog Whisperer on TV. I put “watching” in quotes because, given his glassy eyes and general lethargy, I don’t think he was capable at that time of really taking anything in. And if you are wondering why I didn’t change the channel, the reasons are/were that I had no idea the National Geographic Channel was going to show a marathon of this show, and I feared that moving to get the remote would set off another 30-minutes of Simon thrashing and calling out “Mommy, mommy, mommy.” So Cesar Milan it was, for four full hours.

Around dinner time, Matt and I were both pleased to see Simon eat something. It wasn’t much, but the Cheerios and applesauce sure beat the nothing at all he had for lunch. We stupidly assumed that Simon has crossed some magic threshold to wellness.

We all played a little, and then the bedtime hour arrived. Still convinced Simon was doing much better, I carried him up the stairs. Right about the time we hit the landing, Simon whimpered, called out “Mommy” pitifully, and then threw up over my shoulder, down my back, on my neck, and down my front. That’s when we retook his temperature, realized it was nearly 105 degrees, and headed off to the immediate care center, where we got a antibiotic for an ear infection Simon may or may not develop and drew blood to rule out anything more serious than a nasty virus.

By Saturday, we again thought that the worst was over. Simon responded well to Tylenol and Advil, and we saw flashes of almost-normal behavior in him. In fact, he even debuted some new words (“blue”, “circle”) and tricks (climbing up on the couch by himself).

Our relief was short-lived. When Simon awoke from his afternoon nap, he was quite literally burning up. His ears and cheeks were crimson, and the rest of him was hot pink. Heat positively radiated off of him. His head was hot; his feet were hot; his back was hot. He was, in fact, so hot that it was physically uncomfortable to hold him. Like a potato just out of the oven-he was that hot.

One thermometer reading put him at 105.5, another at 106.1. I didn’t test a third time to verify because, frankly, I didn’t want to know. Together with my mom, who had been over baby-sitting while Matt and I ran a long overdue errand, I gave him medicine, stripped him down, and got him into a tepid bath.

All the while I’m thinking/fearing that at 105+ degrees, brain damage may be a real concern, and I’m wondering if drugs and luke-warm water are enough. Should I rub him down with alcohol?* Take him to the ER? What do you do with a fever of 105+ degrees? In my own mind, I understood and classified fevers thusly:

  • 100-100.9: Barely a fever. No worries.
  • 101-101.9. Consult books and treat.
  • 102-103.9. Bad fever. Call doctor.
  • 104+ Catastrophic fever. Go to emergency room.

Thankfully for all of us, Simon’s temperature was down to the 100-101 range within about 40 minutes. He began to chat a bit, he ate a good dinner, and we had a nice time together.

Once we had him in bed for the night, I got out my book on toddlers to read more about fevers. I was truly surprised to read that many physicians don’t think you have to treat any fever in the 101 or below range. Some say that treatment is optional for up to 102 degrees, and they don’t truly worry about treatment until you hit the 104 mark and unless you stay there for hours on end.

This wisdom came in very handy during today’s lesson on fever, when Simon awoke from his nap and only spiked to 103.9 degrees. I can’t say I wasn’t still worried about him, but some of the edge was certainly off the panic. Better still, this one came down fast, and from dinner to bedtime Simon was his usual playful self.

I very much hope for Simon’s sake that my lesson is nearly over. Flattering though it has been to see his unwavering devotion to me during his illness (he’s not left my side once, and he calls for me if I as much as leave the room to get a glass of water), I’m ready for some toddler independence and defiance. Anything, really, if it means he’s not glassy of eye and vacant of stare.

*For any of you who have heard of the old method of bringing down a fever by sponging down a baby/child with alcohol. Don’t do it. Turns out that the alcohol can actually raise internal temperatures, the alcohol itself is drying to the skin, and the fumes it puts off can be dangerous, too.

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