If there’s one more anxious night that parents endure, it’s the time when their kids are running a fever. With infants and very young children, this puts the anxiety at its highest point. That’s why fever medicines like Tylenol are a staple in every family’s medicine cabinet. But to give or not to give it to children is yet another matter most parents would ask.
Tylenol or paracetamol is a drug used to treat mild to moderate body pains as well as fever. It is available in oral suspension for infants or quick-dissolve tablets for older children. It is also available in a rectal suppository if a child can’t take down medicine due to vomiting. Your doctor will prescribe the dosage according to your baby’s weight. Giving children older than three months Tylenol is okay if his body temperature is anything above 102.2°F (39°C). But newborn babies up to two months of age should never have a fever. If this happens to your infant, seek a doctor’s advice immediately.
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Where is Tylenol Used For?
Tylenol or Acetaminophen is a trusted over-the-counter medicine for pain worldwide. It is known to reduce fever and any associated pain like headaches, body pains, cold/flu pains, or toothache. When your baby is teething, this may be very helpful in lessening his discomfort if he is fussy and won’t go to sleep. If your child has an ear infection or fever accompanying oral thrush, acetaminophen is also a great help in alleviating his pain.
In the past, Tylenol is also used to reduce soreness and initial pain from immunization. But According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, doctors stopped recommending it unless the baby shows signs of sickness and fatigue.
That’s because fever medicine may interfere and weaken the viral agents in the vaccine. So if your child has a mild fever after his shot but seems happy and well, Tylenol is not always necessary.
Tylenol or Ibuprofen: Which is Better?
Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen are OTC and prescription medicine for fever and pain. But these two are different from each other. The former is an analgesic and antipyretic that can manage mild to moderate pain. It is also safer and approved for babies and children with tolerable side effects.
Ibuprofen, on the other hand, belongs to a drug group called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It can treat inflammation and chronic pain and is stronger in formulation than Tylenol. It is not advisable for babies below six months old without a doctor’s prescription.
On a totally different note, aspirin is a medicine that should not be given to infants and toddlers. Only a doctor can prescribe it due to the possibility of contracting a serious side effect like Reye Syndrome.
Safety Dispensing of Acetaminophen
Tylenol is safe, but giving too much can make your child sicker and have higher risk for liver damage. You may need to ask your healthcare provider for the right dosage for safety and efficiency. Doctors would usually recommend the dosage based on his weight rather than age.
Check the label.
Acetaminophen is also a common and active ingredient in other drugs for allergy, cold, or cough that is intended for pain relief.
If your child is taking more than one medicine, check the list of its ingredients to prevent overdosing.
Read the drug facts for the correct concentration and dosage.
There are two forms of liquid acetaminophen with different concentrations. The 80 mg per .08 ml is more concentrated and is intended for infants.
For older children, it is available at 160 mg per 5 ml. Always check the drug chart on the packaging for the correct dosage.
Use the accompanying measuring device.
Children’s medicine comes with a measuring cup or dropper. The right amount of milliliters indicated may not be similar to your kitchen measuring spoon.
It may also vary from other products so it is better to use the dispenser that comes with it for the right dose. You may also use an oral syringe to easily measure and dispense the liquid.
Give Tylenol every four to six hours.
You should not exceed giving more than five doses in 24 hours to prevent a toxic side effect. If the child vomits within the first twenty minutes after giving it, it’s safe to give another one.
But if he was able to hold it for 20 minutes in the first dose, you should wait for the next four hours to give it again.
When to Give Tylenol
When your child feels hot to the touch, it’s normal to feel distressed. But, this does not always warrant that you should reach out for a fever med from your cabinet.
Fever is disconcerting, but it is not your main enemy. And not all fevers need immediate medication at all. In fact, it can be a good indicator that your child is fighting back with infections.
Here’s a simple way to remember this according to the AAP:
- 100° – 102°F (37.8°- 39°C) Low-Grade Fever. This is a good range and does not need treatment.
- 102° – 104°F (39°- 40°C) Average Grade Fever. Give Tylenol if he is uncomfortable.
- Over 104°F (41.1°C) High Fever. This is harmless but he needs treatment. Call the doctor.
- Over 106°F (41.1°C) Very High Fever. This is rare and it is important to bring it down.
- Over 108°F (42.3°C) Dangerous Fever. The fever itself is harmful.
Infants three months and younger DO NOT run a fever in any way. If your thermometer reads 100.4°F, even if he seems fine, call the pediatrician or take him to the emergency room. Potentially serious infections may happen to a newborn if he is left untreated.
How to Help Children with Fever
Fever usually lasts and goes away on its own after three days if without complications. You will notice that temperatures would spike mostly at night.
That’s because our body temperature naturally rises during the nighttime. What seems like a mild fever during the day can become slightly elevated after dusk. But you can take your worries off it during bedtime.
Here are ways to help your child deal with fever and ease his discomfort:
Let your baby rest
We know how some mothers would frequently wake a child and pop in a thermometer to monitor his temp. This is annoying on your child’s part and disrupts his sleep.
You can check for it 30 minutes after giving him medicine and observe him without waking him up. In the meantime, let your baby sleep undisturbed.
Give him enough liquid and food
Offer your child plenty of water and soup when he is sick. For babies less than six months, continue to offer breastfeeding or formula from time to time. This is important to prevent dehydration.
If he is vomiting, you can ask his doctor if you should give him a rehydration solution. You can also give flavored gelatin or ice pops to older kids, but never give sports drinks of any kind.
Dress your child in light clothing
Don’t bundle your child in a thick blanket unless he is shivering. Light and single layer clothes will keep him more comfortable and cool. This will help him shed off heat through his skin. Do not overdress your baby especially those under a year old. They tend to overheat more easily than older children.
Lukewarm water sponge bath
If a child’s fever does not come down with Tylenol after a few hours, you can give him a lukewarm bath. But this is not always necessary. The effect is temporary and may become uncomfortable for some children. Never use alcohol for a sponge bath as this may cause poisoning. An ice pack is not also advisable because it can cause chills and will only raise his temperature.
Call the doctor if your child is:
- Looking and acting very sick
- Having trouble with breathing
- Running a fever over 40°C
- Running a fever for more than three days
- Not wetting diapers or not peeing frequently
- Having seizures with fever
- Complaining of specific pain (ear, throat, etc.)
- Vomiting persistently and with diarrhea or bloody stools
Fever happens to all children – it is a natural and normal body process. Oftentimes, it is a sign of a good immune response. Your baby is still developing his immune system and becomes a host to bacteria and viruses for a while. Giving your child fever medicine is not always necessary unless he is being uncomfortable. Fever medicine is important only in easing his discomfort.
Acetaminophen is a mild fever and pain reducer that you can give when he needs it. But, although it is mild in form, overdosing can still cause a toxic reaction and liver damage. That’s why you need to be wary of the right dosage and concentration when giving it to your kid.
Always check with your doctor if you are unsure of anything regarding your child’s medicines. Previous prescriptions, other child’s medications, and Google search results do not equate to professional advice. Your doctor still needs to evaluate and take laboratory tests to rule out your child’s symptoms.
Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She had experiences in handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also used to train in labor rooms and pediatric wards – helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.