Tylenol Does Not Cure Fever: 6 Tylenol Tips

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Cold and flu season is still in full swing. Many of the illnesses we are seeing in the office are causing fever. Most parents know these five fabulous fever facts, however, I am seeing more parents bringing their hot kiddos through the office door because of a concern something like this:

Dr. Natasha, last night our toddler* got a fever. We gave her some Tylenol and the fever went down. Then, after 4 hours, the fever came back. What do we do next?

After a bit more history and a physical exam, the answer I give is often short and sweet.

Go home, and give her another dose of Tylenol.

Of course docs are always happy to see kids sick with fevers whenever parents are concerned. However, some office visits with the “what do we do next” complaint could be avoided.

Here’s why:

The goal of giving acetaminophen (Tylenol) to a child with fever is to remove some of the discomfort associated with fever, NOT to make the illness go away.

Remember that fever is not an illness. Fever is a symptom of illness. Think of Tylenol as something to quiet the “noise of battle” as your child’s super-strong immune system is fighting off the illness-invader. Tylenol’s role is as a helper, or tool, that can be used to bring our kids comfort while their body fights and heals.

The return of fever after 4 hours simply means your kiddo’s body is still battling the illness that gave the fever in the first place. As long as everything else seems OK (generally good mood, adequate hydration, and no associated symptoms of concern), there is no need to panic. Offer another dose of Tylenol, if they seem uncomfortable.

Quick Tylenol Tips:

  • Give Tylenol every 4-6 hours, no more than 5 doses per 24 hours.
  • Always dose Tylenol based upon your child’s weight, not their age.
  • Always use the syringe or medicine cup that came with the bottle to administer the medication, not a kitchen spoon.
  • No Tylenol for kids under the age 12 weeks, without doctor’s approval.
  • Be sure to keep medications out of kids' reach.
  • Communicate with other caregivers about dosing times to avoid giving too much medication. Send a Tylenol text??

Good luck, and stay cool!

*Note that toddler is used specifically here. For infants 12 weeks and younger, this advice does not apply. Read these Five Fabulous Fever Facts for more info.