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Is it true that rubbing alcohol helps bring down a child's fever?

Using rubbing alcohol to bring down a child’s fever quickly is an old folk remedy, and while it does work in the short term, in the long term it can do more harm than good.

Rubbing alcohol on the skin evaporates quickly, and it is this evaporation that leads to the child cooling down quickly. However, that rapid cooling can lead to a chill, and the associated shivering. When your child shivers, his or her body takes it as a signal that your child is cold, and raises the temperature again.

Aside from the problem with too rapid cooling leading to more fever, there is also the risk that your child may inhale the alcohol, or that it may be absorbed through his or her skin. That can lead to alcohol poisoning.

A better idea than rubbing alcohol, or a cold bath, is to use a washcloth soaked in cool water to cool your child gradually. You can also try child safe versions of ibuprofen or paracetamol, but never give a feverish child aspirin – that could lead to Reye’s syndrome, which may cause your child to become comatose.

More questions

Concern over give infants cold medicine
There are very specific guidelines when it comes to safely administering over the counter medications to babies, toddlers and preschoolers.
Fever is often the first sign of an illness in children. When your child has a temperature it can be a worrying and stressful time.
Sore throats and coughs are two very common illnesses for children.
Once you have established your baby has a fever and have taken practical measures, such as placing them in a cooler environment, to combat this, a fever-reducing medication can be administered.
Febrile convulsions are caused by a rapid increase in the body temperature of young children.
Once you have established your baby has a slight fever, there are a number of measures you can take to keep it under control
If your baby has a slight fever, there are a number of measures you can take to keep it under control.
The average body temperature should be between 35°C and 37°C.
 
While a fever can be treated, it's important to keep in mind that fevers are usually the symptom of an illness and not the illness itself.

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