Max had his first fever two weeks ago. The timing wasn’t ideal (is it ever?). He got the fever the night before the wedding of one of our best friends, and we were slated to leave for Japan in a few days. Things didn’t go quite as planned, but we learned a lot from it. Here’s what happened:
Mikey and Max left to run a few errands so that I could finish chores at home. Earlier that day, I thought Max felt a bit hot, but when I checked his temperature, it was still normal. He tends to run a bit warmer when he’s teething and he had two teeth erupting and it looked pretty painful. So, I wasn’t too worried. When Max got home, I gave him a hug and I knew that something was off. He was warmer than he’s ever been. I took his temperature and he was a toasty 38.6. He had a fever. His first fever.
After checking his temperature, I gave him a dose of paracetamol and he fell asleep. When he woke up, he asked to watch a movie. He woke up cooler. His temp was down to the 37s and he had an appetite. He ate chicken nuggets while watching, and after a while, he seemed like he was his old self again. I read online that a lukewarm bath helps, so I insisted on giving him a bath even if he was crying like crazy. Looking back, I should have just let it go. By the time it was bed time, his temp was back up to the 38s. I gave him another dose of paracetamol before he fell asleep and I hoped for the best.
At midnight, Max’s temperature would fluctuate between 37.8 and 38.5, based on our in-ear thermometer. We started to doubt the thermometer’s accuracy, so Mikey went out to look for a drugstore that was open that hour, that had forehead/infrared thermometers available. He found one at arrived home at about 1:30 AM.
At around 4 AM, Max was still pretty warm. It was like paracetamol didn’t work. He woke up and asked to watch “karks” (sharks), so we were up with him. I was worried because his temperature seemed to be rising and the paracetamol wasn’t controlling it anymore. We dressed up so that we could go to Urgent Care, but he fell asleep again after a while. He woke up at 8 AM and this time he was very, very hot. His temperature was at 39.9 and he was a different baby. He didn’t want to leave bed and he wanted to breastfeed all the time. He was crying a lot, and when we got to the car, and he started breastfeeding and sleeping again.
We were in a daze. We had to be in Tagaytay by 3 PM that day, but we were so worried about Max. When we got to Urgent Care, they escorted us directly to the Emergency Room because they had pediatricians there, and because it was the Dengue/Dengvaxia Express Center (imagine our silent panic when we saw this). When we got there, they gave Max a sponge bath, more paracetamol, and they put something in his diaper to collect his urine. Because his fever was less than 24 hours, they advised against a blood test because it’s not likely to show anything. His fever finally started going down, and by the time we were discharged (around 2 PM), he was fever-less. It took a while for us to be discharged because we had to wait for the urine analysis (which came out normal). At this point, we knew we couldn’t attend the wedding anymore. We made arrangements for our friends to cover for us.
After the ER, we went to our pediatrician’s reliever (our regular pediatrician was out of the country) for good measure and she examined Max. She said his ears and throat seemed slightly red and maybe the fever was just the body’s way of fighting a virus. We told her that we were hoping to leave for Japan on Friday, so on top of the paracetamol, she prescribed a decongestant and to help fight off the impending cold and to let him rest more soundly. She told us that if he wasn’t better by Thursday, we could run a blood test then to see if it was anything more than a run-of-the-mill virus.
We arrived at home at around 3 PM and we were in a daze. I was relieved that Max’s fever had gone, but I was heartbroken that I missed the wedding of one of my best friends. There are many things that I’ve given up as a parent, but this one really stung (it still does). But the heartache went hand-in-hand with gratitude for the improvement we were seeing with Max.
We gave Max another dose of paracetamol and his first dose of the decongestant. He napped right after and we kept checking his temperature. Sometime during his nap (at around 5 PM), I noticed that the surface of the bed around him was soaking wet. I got really worried, but when I touched him, he finally felt normal again. We took his temperature and it was finally back down to 36.8. We checked again because we thought the thermometer was acting up. We ended up using three thermometers and they all read the same. When we finally accepted that 36.8 was really his temperature, Mikey and I cried. It was like we were breathing for the first time in almost 24 hours. We gave him two more doses of paracetamol (at 4 hour intervals) and we let him sleep that night without waking him for another dose.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I was up every hour feeling his forehead and checking his temperature. The fever never came back.
The first thing we did that day was to check his temperature. He didn’t have a fever anymore, but he was still clingy and he wanted to breastfeed all the time. We basically gave in to everything he wanted: ice cream, screen time, and unlimited breastfeeding. He wasn’t back to his normal self yet, but he didn’t have a fever and he had bursts of energy where he seemed like his old self again. We wore out our new thermometer that day. We checked his temperature every 30 minutes.
At some point, I noticed that he developed rashes in his chest and tummy area. He didn’t seem to be bothered by them. This is when we thought that he might have actually had Roseola. The pediatrician called us again that night to check up on Max and we told her that he was fever free since yesterday afternoon, but he had developed a rash. She confirmed that it was most likely Roseola and that the rash’s appearance is actually a good sign because it means that he’s already well. She also assured us that it was unlikely that it was dengue because his fever wasn’t persistent. She ended the phone call with: “have fun on your trip”. I finally allowed myself to be excited about Japan again.
We were still in a kind of daze. The three days took a physical and emotional toll on us. But I was grateful for Max’s speedy recovery and that it wasn’t anything more serious. But I did make notes of what I learned from the whole experience:
- Don’t be afraid of fevers. The (reliever) pediatrician told us that a fever is actually the body’s way of fighting a virus. The body actually heats up to make it inhospitable for the virus. So, the next time this happens, I hope we won’t be as panicked.
- Apart from paracetamol (and ibuprofen, but we didn’t get to use that), there are other things you can do to keep your temperature down. The ER told us to use a damp cloth and wipe his forehead, neck, armpits, and groin. You don’t actually need to bathe the entire body. We also used essential oils (Healthy Monsters PH’s “Ouchie Hot”) on his back and the soles of his feet (a mix of pachouli, peppermint, tea tree, and lemon grass) every four hours. I don’t know how helpful the essential oils were, but I’d like to think it helped since the fever was gone in 24 hours.
- Invest in a good no-contact thermometer. We had an ear thermometer and one for the armpit, but they kept giving us different readings. Max also really hated the armpit one. I kept flashbacking to all those times I was in a baby store and saw all the wonderful no-contact thermometers that are readily available, and that’s what prompted Mikey to leave in the middle of the night. The last thing you want to worry about is if your thermometer is really reliable.
- Hydration is important. Just like with diarrhea, dehydration during a fever would cause more serious problems. The doctor advised us to just let him drink whatever he wants, as long as he’s drinking. So I kept offering Max water, juice, milk, and Chuckie.
- Don’t stress about the other things you normally stress about, like weaning, his diet, and screen time. He was already so uncomfortable (and we were very tired), so whatever kept him happy at the moment, we would give in to.
By Thursday night, Mikey and I were breathing easy. As soon as we put Max to bed, we had a mini date in the living room. We ate leftovers and watched two episodes of The Office before going to sleep.
We made our 3:30 PM flight and landed in Japan at around 8:30 PM. But Japan deserves whole other entry (or three).