Warning: Do not give aspirin to children with viral infections. Parents still commonly administer aspirin to their feverish youngsters despite widespread publicity about the risk of developing a rare but often fatal disorder called Reye’s syndrome when children with viral infections take aspirin. If an analgesic (painkiller) or antipyretic (fever reducer) is needed for a child under the age of twenty-one, acetaminophen (Tylenol being the best known brand) should be used, not aspirin.
Keep in mind that fever is a mechanism the body uses to heal itself. Pediatricians say that unless a child’s fever exceeds 102 °F (which rarely happens with a simple cold) or the child is very uncomfortable, there is little to be gained and possibly something to lose from giving medication to reduce it. Reducing the child’s fever does not produce the improvements in comfort, appetite, or fluid intake that parents might expect. However, children with a history of fever-induced seizures should be given an antipyretic. Give only acetaminophen at the correct dosage for the child’s weight once every four to six hours.