Helping Hot Kiddos

Fever reducers for children do not slow recovery from illness and do reduce fever faster

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Parents often wonder what they should do when their child has a fever. Should they give the child medication? Will that help, or could that hurt?

A recent study found that giving children medication to reduce a fever does not appear to slow down a child's recovery from illness.

In fact, fever reducers appear to do exactly what they are supposed to do for children: help the fever go away more quickly.

The most common fever-reducing medications include acetaminophen (such as Tylenol), ibuprofen and naproxen.

"Carefully read the labels of all children's medicines."

The study, led by Edward Purssell, PhD, of the King's College London in the United Kingdom, aimed to find out whether there was any truth to the possibility that fever-reducing medications could slow down a child's recovery from illness.

The authors searched two major medical research databases for studies related to the use of fever reducers compared to other non-medication treatments for fever.

The researchers identified six randomized-controlled trials, and five of the studies were included in their analysis.

The sixth one was not used because it did not contain information on how long it took the children to recover from their illnesses.

Three of the papers looked at the use of fever reducers and other fever treatments in children with malaria.

The other three papers dealt with children suffering from chicken pox or from general viral and respiratory infections.

The researchers looked at how long it took the children to recover from their fevers and from the specific infection they had.

The fevers of the children who received a fever-reducing medication went away an average 4.16 hours faster than in the children who received other treatments.

Among children with malaria, their fevers cleared an average 5.28 hours faster if they received a fever reducer than if they did not.

In the non-malaria studies, the children's fevers cleared an average 2 hours faster if they received a fever-reducing medication.

There was no difference in how long it took the children to recover from their illness regardless of whether they received fever reducers or a different fever treatment.

"Identifying the role that fever may play in recovery from infection is complicated," the authors wrote. They said there are some theories that fevers are beneficial in helping individuals overcome an illness.

However, it's not clear if the fever itself is beneficial or if the fever is the symptom of something else beneficial going on in the body while the immune system fights the disease.

The authors noted that using fever reducers to help a child recover from a fever does not appear to cause harm, but parents also should not feel it is necessary or required to use the medications.

The study was published May 9 in the Journal of Pediatrics. Information on funding was unavailable.

One author has spoken at scientific meeting sponsored by Abbott and Berlin-Chemi pharmaceutical companies. The other author had no disclosures.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 21, 2013
Last Updated:
August 5, 2013