When a sniffle can turn into a worrying fever

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Last week our son, who is only four, suddenly took ill. One day he was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and the next he was wan, feverish and obviously out of sorts generally.

But being the stoical parents we are we thought it was just a slight sniffle and he would be fine going to nursery as usual while daily life carried on as normal for the rest of us.

It was only when I went to fetch him after work and saw the stricken looks on the nursery workers’ faces that I realised he was perhaps slightly more ill than we had first thought.

Being a doctor’s daughter we had to be at death’s door before either my brother or I was allowed to be home from school. So on the rare occasions I do remember being off school I really wasn’t having a great time at all.

We both had friends who would be allowed to stay home from school at the drop of a hat. A slight sprain or sniffle and the doctors were immediately called in. They then spent the day happily tucked up on the sofa watching daytime telly – a huge novelty in those days as Neighbours was just beginning but was only on at lunchtimes.

No such luck in our house. Chicken pox, mumps, glandular fever and a kidney infection were the only four times I can remember being off school. And they were horrible illnesses where I remember praying to get better just so I could join my friends at school again. Hardly just a duvet day.

Ever since my son was small he has had the odd fit every time he gets a high temperature – something called febrile convulsions. Having never known anything about these when our son first had one when he was less than a year old, the other half and I were sent into a state of panic as you can imagine – both believing he must have had an epileptic fit or worse, possibly even a brain haemorrhage, such were our wild imaginings. Thank goodness we were in the company of friends whose son had had similar fits and they took it all in their stride saying it was fine and not to worry.

And the doctor confirmed this was totally normal and in fact one in five children under the age of five suffers like this. So next time it happened we were real pros – just cuddling him until it passed and treating his fever to lessen the incidents.

However, as he hadn’t had such an episode for well over a year, we assumed he had grown out of it. But clearly not – as the nursery workers’ faces revealed. The son who we had thought was just a little bit under the weather had gone into one of his fits at nursery. Luckily one of his key workers remembered him suffering like this as a baby and everyone calmed down.

So for the next few days we guiltily wrapped him up in cotton wool and nursed him back to his usual robust, healthy self.

The only thing is, now he is four he has realised what fun it can be being “ill” (well, at the point of recovery anyway). Playing on our guilt was a novelty for him, but one he seemed to very much enjoy! And despite having recovered fully within a very short time a week later he is claiming he still needs to be treated with sympathy and lots of treats. Our sympathy is now waning and finally we are seeing through him.

He is now out of our bed, where he insisted he had to be to “recover” and back in his own bed. He is also back into his routine of eating normal healthy food (not the sugary ones we were tempting him with last week in order to keep up his energy). And he is back at nursery and not watching endless DVDs as he has grown accustomed to in the last few days. None of this has gone down too well, as you can imagine!

Anyone else wondering what to do when their child is ill or has a fever should visit: www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1633.aspx?CategoryID=62&SubCategoryID=64