When Frequent Fevers Are a Sign of Something Serious


Little boy with a fever and his teddy bear

An occasional fever is very normal in children, and it is actually an indication that a child’s immune system is working properly to fight off disease. However, parents concerned about a child getting a fever every month or more frequently should know that this could be a sign of something else going on the in the body. Most fevers resolve themselves within a few days. But other pediatric fevers can be prolonged or reappear consistently and shortly after periods of relief.

This article addresses the topic of relapsing fever and when recurrent night fevers in children are a cause for greater concern.

What Is a Relapsing Fever?

A relapsing fever is defined as an elevated body temperature that occurs in three or more episodes within a six-month period. There is at least a week between each one of these recurrent fevers. And there are not too many diseases that commonly cause recurrent fever patterns like this.

They can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, but the diagnosis process can be a complicated and lengthy one due to all the possible causes that exist. Oftentimes, children who have relapsing fevers feel very well during non-fever periods and even fairly well while the fever exists.

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What Frequent Fevers Could Mean

One of the most common causes for frequent fevers is a disorder called PFAPA syndrome. This acronym stands for periodic fever, aphthous ulcers, pharyngitis, and adenopathy. Fevers associated with PFAPA usually last three to six days and occur again every 21 to 28 days. Children younger than five have this condition most frequently. Along with periodic fevers, children who have PFAPA often have small ulcers, canker sores, inflamed tonsils, and inflamed lymph glands in the neck.

Cyclic neutropenia, a rare disease, may also be to blame for frequent fevers in children. Meanwhile abnormal progressions of more common disorders, like an Epstein-Barr virus infection, could cause a relapsing fever as well.

Recurrent night fevers in children are sometimes blamed on ticks and Lyme disease. This is because a relapsing fever can be caused by spirochetes and result in louse-borne relapsing fever (LBRF or epidemic relapsing fever) or tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF or endemic relapsing fever). These conditions are often accompanied by a rash, gastrointestinal symptoms, and neurological symptoms.

How to Handle Frequent Fevers in Kids

If a child experiences frequent fevers like the ones described in this article, then it is a good idea to consult a doctor for laboratory testing during acute fever episodes. Certain characteristics may be uncovered by lab tests if a child has PFAPA syndrome, for example. If this disorder is present, prednisone or use of prophylactic cimetidine may be recommended. While attempting to find a diagnosis, fever reducers with pain relief, like PediaCare, can help children feel more comfortable and lower fevers when they occur.

Most childhood fevers don’t cause any long-term problems, but ongoing fevers that happen very often could be an early warning sign that shouldn’t be ignored. Keep track of the child’s fever temperatures, duration of fevers, and any other accompanying symptoms to present all the facts to a doctor once a consultation is scheduled.

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