Prevention

FAS is preventable if a woman refrains from using alcohol during pregnancy. Studies suggest that drinking a large amount of alcohol at any one time may be more dangerous to the fetus than drinking small amounts more often. The fetus is most vulnerable to various types of injuries depending on the stage of development in which alcohol is encountered.

Because a safe amount of drinking during pregnancy has not been determined, all major authorities agree that women should not drink at all during pregnancy. Unfortunately, women sometimes wait until a pregnancy is confirmed before they stop drinking. By then, the embryo has gone through several weeks of critical development, a period during which exposure to alcohol can be very damaging. Therefore, experts urge women who are pregnant or anticipating a pregnancy to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages.

fever An abnormal internal temperature of the body above 98.6°F due to disease, although the normal range depends on when and how the temperature is taken. Normal body temperature is lower in the morning and higher in the late afternoon and evening. Right after activity, a child's temperature may rise to 99°F. Rectal temperatures are up to a degree higher and under-the-arm temperatures are usually up to a degree lower than 98.6°F.

The thermal regulatory center in the brain is responsible for controlling the body's temperature. This setting rises during an infection, resulting in a fever, because white blood cells release certain proteins during the immune response. These proteins trigger the brain to release a chemical called prostaglandin, which causes the nerve cells to produce a feeling of coldness. This is why a patient experiences chills during the development of fever. In response to this coldness, the brain increases the body's temperature, speeding up the activities of the immune system against the invading germs. What this means is that a fever is actually not a thing to be avoided—it can actually help the body fight disease. Many parents do not understand this and become concerned as soon as a child runs a slight fever.

However, a very high fever can be uncomfortable and eventually—if it goes high enough—can lead to seizures and death.

Temperatures may be taken with either an oral or a rectal thermometer. Those who find a mercury thermometer hard to read may find a digital readout thermometer easier. While some doctors rely on this type of instrument, others insist that digital thermometers are not as accurate. Ear thermometers are also an option, although they should not be used in children under six months of age. A rectal thermometer is used for infants and young children who cannot hold an oral thermometer in their mouths. An oral thermometer should not be used to take a rectal temperature.

After each use, the thermometer should be cleaned using lukewarm soapy water and rinsed well with cold water. Hot water will break a mercury thermometer. The thermometer may be rinsed instead with alcohol followed by cold water.

The course of a fever depends on its cause. The degree of the fever does not really indicate how serious the illness is, however. Severe infections may only cause a low fever, and some mild infections can cause a high fever.

Treatment

Some parents prefer to treat a fever to lessen a child's discomfort or to head off the likelihood of febrile seizures. Treating a fever in children lessens the risk of seizures, which tend to run in families and occur in less than 3 percent of normal children up to six years of age. While they can be alarming to parents, febrile seizures last less than 15 minutes and do not cause brain damage or epilepsy.

Medication Medicines called "antipyretics" will bring down a fever. For example, aspirin and acetaminophen lower fever by slowing the production of prostaglandins. Because fevers are beneficial, however, most doctors recommend that a child should only take antipyretics for fevers over 101°F. Anything lower than this is considered to be a low-grade fever that may simply be a sign of a mild infection.

In an infant younger than three months of age, however, any fever over 100.4°F requires medical evaluation.

Aspirin should not be given to any child under age 18, because it has been associated with reye's syndrome, a very serious condition affecting the brain and liver, in children who have a viral infection such as influenza or chicken pox.

Other methods If the fever is very high, a pediatrician may recommend a lukewarm tub bath or a wet sheet. A child should not be immersed in cold water, however, because this can lower the body temperature too quickly.

Children should not be rubbed with alcohol, since the fumes can be dangerous and there is evidence that alcohol can be absorbed through the skin.

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