Did you know having a fever is not always bad? A natural response from your body, a rise in temperature signifies that your body is fighting off an infection. The range of normal body temperature is 36–37 degrees Celsius (°C) or 96.8–98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (°F). However, in the event of an infection, the immune system raises your body temperature in an attempt to kill off any germs.
A temperature above 37 °C (100 °F) is classified as a fever. In general, a fever does not require medication unless your child is extremely uncomfortable or has a history of febrile convulsions (seizures). When fevers become persistent or recurrent, however, they can be considered quite serious. This is especially true for babies under six months of age.
Dr. Stuart Spitalnic, an emergency physician and author, offers the following advice, “Fever itself is much less of an issue than people make of it. The main reason a fever needs to be treated is for patient comfort, and in small children, to make sure they still act normal when they are affected by it.”
Cold Sponging: Good Or Bad?
Cold sponging or using a cold compress has been one of the oldest home remedies to lower a high-grade fever. If you haven’t used this therapy before, you may have some questions about its effectiveness and the types of precautions to consider. Read on for more information about this tried and true homeopathic remedy.
Dr. Amesh A Adalja, a clinical assistant professor at the Department of Critical Care Medicine & Emergency Medicine from Pittsburgh, offers this helpful guidance, “Cold sponging is an effective means to rapidly lower temperature. It could be used as an add-on therapy when a fever is unresponsive to acetaminophen or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen. However, its effect (unless continually applied) is not sustained as it would be if a patient was administered acetaminophen. If your child is allergic to anti-pyretic drugs, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, you could opt for sponging.”
How to Use Cold Sponging on Your Child
- Place your child in a regular baby bath or bathtub. Now fill up the tub with two to three inches of lukewarm or tepid water.
- Check the temperature with a bath thermometer. The water should be between 32.2 °C and 35 °C (or 90 °F–95 °F). If you do not have a bath thermometer, use the back of your hand to test out the water. It should just feel slightly warm.
- Using a clean washcloth or sponge, start spreading the water on your child, making sure you get their trunk, hands, and legs.
- If your child is actively resisting this home remedy, stop the process after a minute or two. On the other hand, if your child is enjoying his or her time in the tub, continue sponging for several minutes. Once your child is done in the water, be sure you pat dry them thoroughly.
Safety Precautions for Cold Sponging
Follow these basic safety precautions to ensure cold sponging is a pleasant and therapeutic experience for your child:
- Do not use ice cold water, since it can cause shivering, which can further raise your child’s vulnerable body temperature.
- Stop immediately if your child starts to shiver and wrap him or her in a dry, warm towel afterward.
- Don’t use cold sponging for more than 20 minutes at a time.
- Keep in mind that cold sponging will only help reduce your child’s temperature for a short period of time. In some cases, you may not see any change in the thermometer after applying this remedy, so be prepared for that possibility too.
If your child’s fever persists for 48 hours after medicine, sponging, rest, and plenty of TLC, it’s time to call your doctor and ask about getting in for an appointment. Fevers that last beyond two days can be extremely dangerous and may indicate that something more serious is going on with your little one.
1. Singhi S, Padmini P, Sood V. Urban parents’ understanding of fever in children: its dangers, and treatment practices. Indian Pediatr. 1991 May;28(5):501-5. PubMed PMID: 1752678.
2. Aluka TM, Gyuse AN, Udonwa NE, Asibong UE, Meremikwu MM, Oyo-Ita A. Comparison of cold water sponging and acetaminophen in control of Fever among children attending a tertiary hospital in South Nigeria. J Family Med Prim Care. 2013 Apr;2(2):153-8. doi: 10.4103/2249-4863.117409. PubMed PMID: 24479070; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3894045.
3. Mahar AF, Allen SJ, Milligan P, Suthumnirund S, Chotpitayasunondh T, Sabchareon A, Coulter JB. Tepid sponging to reduce temperature in febrile children in a tropical climate. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 1994 Apr;33(4):227-31.PubMed PMID: 8013170.
4. Axelrod P. External cooling in the management of fever. Clin Infect Dis. 2000 Oct;31 Suppl 5: S224-9. Review. PubMed PMID: 11113027.
5. Chung HS, Kang KS, Hwang AR. [A study on the effect of cold applications using a sponge bath in healthy adults]. Taehan Kanho. 1989 Aug 31;28(3):68-82. Korean.PubMed PMID: 2811260.