One of a parent’s biggest worries is when their child comes down with a fever, but B.C.’s largest health authority is offering up some tips on when a sick child should – and shouldn’t – be taken to the emergency room.
According to a review done by Fraser Health, there are roughly 120,000 visits each year to pediatric emergency departments across the region. But while the number one reason was due to a child having a fever, Dr. Neil Barclay says that only a tiny percentage were serious enough for the child to be admitted.
“The vast majority of them are seen and then sent right back home,” Barclay told Black Press Media.
Any temperature above 38 C is considered a fever and is often a symptom seen when a child is suffering from common ailments, like a cold or flu.
But that doesn’t stop parents from rushing to the hospital in fear of the worst when their child’s temperature spikes – a worry known to doctors as “fever phobia.”
“Some families feel that as soon as their child gets a fever they need to go to the emergency department, whereas we know if your child is well looking we can give it two or three days of time to see how they’re doing,” Barclay said.
Crowded emergency rooms are synonymous with the colder months, also known as flu season, and many parents are left waiting hours only to see a doctor for a few minutes. Instead, Barclay is encouraging parents to first try other alternatives before heading to the hospital.
“One of the best is Healthlink BC, and you can access that either by website or by calling 811,” Barclay said. “What it does is it puts you in touch with a nurse and can give you advice on how to manage your child’s fever at home and when to go to the emergency department.”
Barclay also recommended visiting one of the province’s new primary care centres, located in Surrey, Burnaby and Maple Ridge, which can help treat any child over the age of one. Centres have also been set up in Kelowna, Quesnel, Nanaimo, Vernon and Victoria.
There are instances that do warrant a trip to the hospital, Barclay added.
“Any child under the age of three months with a temperature above 38 C should be taken to an emergency department,” he said. “Other times are if your child has had a fever for more than three days and you don’t know why or if at any point they look sick – which means they are lethargic, having trouble breathing or are not drinking fluids.”
If a child has pre-existing conditions or suffers from other illnesses they should also be taken to the hospital.
Barclay, a father himself, admitted that he understands the anxiousness that strikes when a child is sick and if a parent isn’t sure to err on the side of caution. But Barclay also pointed out that vaccinations have minimized the chances of older children getting meningitis or pneumonia has dropped significantly.
“By far the odds are if your child has a fever they don’t need antibiotics and will get better on their own.”