The Essential Guide to Your Child's Health

Parents Magazine and the American Academy of Pediatrics present this ultimate guide to your kid's health.

SIDS Safety and Fever Facts

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When we decided to put together a comprehensive children's health handbook, we knew right away that we wanted to team up with the experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) -- the most trusted and respected group of pediatricians in the country. The result: A guide that you can print out and refer to over and over again. From food allergies to fever facts to first aid, here's the latest news you need to keep your kids safe, healthy, and happy.

SIDS Safety

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the number-one cause of death in infants 1 to 2 months old. Doctors aren't exactly sure what causes SIDS, but these key steps can minimize your child's risk.

  1. Put her to sleep on her back. Why is stomach sleeping so dangerous? Researchers think that when a child sleeps facedown, she runs the risk of rebreathing her own exhaled air, which contains potentially toxic carbon dioxide. In addition, experts believe that in a SIDS baby, the area of the brain that's responsible for arousal and respiration is underdeveloped -- meaning she's unable to wake herself up and gulp fresh air.
  2. Keep his crib safe. It should have a firm mattress and be free of blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals. Because overheating makes arousal more difficult, the AAP also recommends that you don't overdress your baby for bed or keep his bedroom too warm.
  3. Don't cosleep. Your baby may be suffocated by blankets or entrapped in bed slats; if you're a deep sleeper or have consumed alcohol or taken any medication, you could also roll onto her by accident.
  4. Reduce your baby's exposure to tobacco smoke -- in utero and after birth. Experts believe that a smoke byproduct may be responsible for that underdevelopment of the brain area that keeps babies from waking up. Mothers who smoke cigarettes during pregnancy double their baby's risk of SIDS.
  5. Get the word out. Make sure grandparents, babysitters, and day-care providers follow all these recommendations.

    -Source: John Kattwinkel, M.D., a University of Virginia neonatologist and chair of the AAP's Task Force on SIDS.

Fever Facts

When your child's temperature spikes, will you know how to control his fever? Answer these questions to find out.

1. True or false: Every fever needs to be treated.

*False. Fever is the body's response to infection. If you try to quell every fever, you may be inhibiting a natural, helpful, disease-fighting mechanism. As long as your child is eating, drinking, and playing, there's no reason to medicate her. If, on the other hand, she's lethargic or has a history of febrile seizures, then you need to give her a pain reliever.

2. Call the doctor when your child's fever goes above:

a. 100?F.

b. 103?F.

c. It depends on your child's age and symptoms.

*C. Seek immediate medical help for any baby under 3 months of age with a rectal temperature above 100.2?F. Call the doctor if your baby is between 3 and 6 months and has a temperature of 101? or greater. In children 6 months and older, a temperature of 103? or higher is cause for alarm. High fevers in young children can signal serious infections.

3. The most accurate way to take a baby's temperature is:

a. Orally.

b. Rectally.

c. Under the arm.

d. With an ear thermometer.

*B. A rectal reading is closest to the body's core temperature.

4. The best drug to bring down a fever is:

a. Aspirin.

b. Acetaminophen.

c. Ibuprofen.

d. Either acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

e. Alternating doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

*D. Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen are highly effective fever reducers, although you shouldn't give ibuprofen to children under 6 months of age. Alternating the drugs isn't recommended. And never give aspirin to children, because of its association with Reye's syndrome, a potentially fatal disease.
Source: Robert Walker, M.D., a member of the AAP's Committee on Practice and Ambulatory Medicine.

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