High fevers can be brought under control by alternating Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Motrin (ibuprofen), but it is vital to stick to the correct dosage and frequency of use. Tylenol can only be given once every 4 hours, while Motrin can only be given every 6 hours. Infants younger than six months cannot be given ibuprofen. It’s vital to track which medication you use, how much you give, and when you give it.
Fevers are a sign of your body naturally fighting an infection, yet when our little one develops a fever, the first thing we do is treat the fever. Is this the right approach?
A fever is not a disease; it is a sign of your body fighting a medical condition. Body temperature is elevated through immune response, indicating that the immune system is functioning as it should.
A mild fever usually dissipates on its own and leaves your body stronger in the process.
We have been conditioned to turn to medication through the “prevention is better than the cure” narrative, which is not the ideal solution for every little ache or pain, including a slight elevation in body temperature.
Modern medicine saves lives if used correctly, and breaking a high fever is where medicine steps in to assist recovery.
Children are more prone to illness than adults, and knowing how to effectively control a high fever can be life-saving. Let’s look at how combining Tylenol and Motrin can help break a high fever.
What’s considered a fever?
A fever is a higher-than-normal body temperature. For example, adults will have a fever if the body temperature is higher than 100.4°F (38°C ).
Children have a fever if their temperature is…
- Above 100.4°F (38°C) if measured rectally
- Above 99.5°F (37.5°C) if measured orally
- Above 99°F(37.2°C) if measured under the arm
Our average body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C), and fevers up to 102°F (38.8889°C) can be treated at home, but if the fever persists for a few days, you should consult your doctor.
Generally, fevers below 104°F (40°C) associated with viral infections like flu are not harmful.
The fever is the immune system fighting the infection. Most mild fevers will pass after a few days and are usually not a significant cause for concern.
However, to be safe, if your child has a fever, you should see your doctor if:
- Your child’s fever persists for more than five days.
- If the fever elevates beyond 104°F (40°C).
- Medications such as Tylenol and Motrin do not reduce the fever. Never give aspirin to children under 17 years old.
- If your child is listless, confused, or displays poor eye contact with you.
- Your child vomits repeatedly and complains of headaches and body pains.
There is no harm in contacting your doctor sooner, especially if your child has an underlying medical condition or if you are concerned about what type of infection your child has contracted.
Other signs and symptoms of a fever include:
- Chills and shivering
- Headache and muscle aches
- Loss of appetite and irritability
- Dehydration and general weakness
There are circumstances when a sudden fever can be severe. For example, if your child has developed a fever after being left in a hot car for a while. You should seek medical assistance immediately.
For most parents, fevers are a concern that can be remedied at home, but as stated, there are circumstances when seeing a doctor is best.
About 2-4% of children under five can develop serious side effects of fever, known as febrile seizures.
These seizures may cause jerking movements or appear as though your child has passed out. If this happens, place your child on their side and call for medical assistance.
Five fever-related myths and facts
Let’s face it, to most of us, fevers are a bad sign and should be treated immediately.
Here are a few myths and facts about fevers that may clear up any concerns:
- All fevers are bad for children. This is not true as a fever turns on the body’s immune system and fevers below 104°F (40°C) are actually beneficial for sick children.
- Fevers above 104°F (40°C) can cause brain damage. This is untrue, but if the temperature exceeds 108°F (42°C), which is very rare, brain damage is a concern. This only occurs if the ambient temperature is very high, like being in a closed hot car.
- All fevers need to be treated with fever medication. This is untrue. Mild fevers don’t cause discomfort, but fevers over 102°F or 103° F (39° or 39.5° C) can be controlled with fever medication.
- All fevers that are not treated will keep going higher. This is also untrue as your brain regulates your body temperature, and your temperature will rarely exceed 104°F (40°C) from a viral infection.
- After treatment, a fever should stay down. This is untrue, as fever medication does not treat the actual infection. It simply helps to regulate your body temperature. Once the medication wears off, the fever will come back. Most fevers related to viral infections last for 2 to 4 days. Only once your body overpowers the infection will the fever dissipate.
Alternating Tylenol and Motrin to treat fever
People generally respond to fever differently. Some people, including children, may not show signs of discomfort or complain about not feeling well when they have an obvious fever.
Don’t use fever medication simply because your child’s forehead feels warm to the touch.
Firstly, you should use a reliable thermometer to see how high the fever is and before you decide on fever medication, you need to know how the person feels and behaves.
This is more important than how high the fever is and is essential in determining whether or not fever medication is necessary.
Tylenol and Motrin are two widely used medicines for fever, and it is safe to use them alternatively in staggered intervals if one or the other is not working as well as it should.
📌 Tylenol (acetaminophen) can only be given once every four hours, while Motrin (ibuprofen) can only be given every six hours. Infants younger than six months cannot be given ibuprofen.
For children older than 6 months, there is a limit based on body weight on how much of these two fever medications can be given in a 24-hour period, so it is vitally important to keep track of which medication you use, how much you give, and when you gave it.
Fever medication usually takes about an hour to begin working. If you use both Tylenol and Motrin, you need to monitor your child’s temperature hourly and record the exact time you give what medication.
You can give the second medicine an hour after the first if the fever is still causing serious discomfort, but you must then stick firmly to the prescribed frequency of use, 4 hours for Tylenol and 6 hours for Motrin.
Giving the medication time to work is essential, so don’t rush when alternating fever medication.
These medications work differently to contain the discomfort associated with fever but do not treat the condition causing the fever.
It is really important to check your child’s temperature before you give any fever medication. If your child’s temperature has dropped and they are feeling better, you should not give them any more medicine.
One more dose, just to be sure, is not necessary.
Another important thing to consider is another medication you are giving your child, like cough syrup, may contain acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
If this is the case, you will have to reduce the dose of Tylenol or Motrin to balance the amount you can give with each dose.
If unsure, it is best to speak to your doctor or pharmacist to determine the correct dosage.
Useful tips on treating fever in conjunction with medication
Below are a few care techniques that will help break a fever:
- Confirm a fever by using a thermometer to measure your or your child’s body temperature.
- Stay in bed and rest. Rest conserves the energy your body needs to fight the underlying infection.
- Stay hydrated. This helps to replenish liquid lost through sweating.
- Stay cool. Remove extra layers of clothing and bedding unless you have a cold fever. In this case, do not overdress or use too many blankets.
- Take a lukewarm bath. Be sure not to use cold water as this can be dangerous.
- Use a cool, wet cloth (not ice cold) to place on the forehead. This helps draw some heat away.
- Contact your doctor over any concerns you might have.
People with compromised immune systems are more prone to fevers, regardless of age.
Early treatment of a fever in young children and older adults can potentially avoid serious complications.
Child immunizations often cause fever, and infants under 3 months old who develop a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or above must be seen by a doctor.
The same applies to babies between 3 and 6 months old with a fever of 102°F (38.9°C).
In addition, any person with a weak or compromised immune system should see a doctor if they develop a fever.
Some infections spread quickly, and getting immediate medical attention is a wise action.
Remember, a fever is a sign that your body is distressed caused by an infection, and treating a fever does not treat the cause of the infection.
A few last words
No matter how much we read or understand about fevers, we will never be at ease knowing that a loved one is not well. Worry leads to over-doctoring, which is a normal human response.
Unfortunately, returning to good health requires rest, enough liquids, time, and the correct medication when necessary. But the nagging questions about the cause of the fever tend to linger and amplify our worry.
When in doubt, call your doctor or see your local pharmacist to find out if a new viral strain is going around.
Nothing is more reassuring than your doctor, who knows the family’s medical history and advises on how best to treat a fever. Your doctor will be more concerned about the cause than the fever itself, which can be easily managed.
When you speak to your doctor, be sure to share any information that may help to identify the cause of the fever.