Peremptory warning – I am not a doctor or a nurse, and I don’t play one on television. I am a mom of two diverse children, one aged eleven, the other aged eight. I know what applies to them, and I will freely admit, I am still learning.

Over the course of my children’s lifetimes, I believe I have owned more thermometers than I ever knew existed. There was the pacifier thermometer, a different one for the forehead, another kind for the ear, a few for under the arm, and a few for under the tongue. (Yes, I know there are rectal thermometers as well, but I loathe those even more.) I have even tried the old-fashioned mercury thermometers.

Sadly, I am unable to use any of them. (For the purpose of this blog, any thermometer readings mentioned are in Fahrenheit.)

My father berated me this morning for not using a thermometer for checking my children’s temperatures. The number is important. I realize the importance of numbers in this world. I really do.

I also realize that thermometers in the hands of anyone but me most likely work as useful tools. For me, I get readings of 94.4 or 96.4 or 95.7.¬†Obviously, I don’t know how to use the thermometer, any thermometer.

According to my children’s doctor visits, my son’s normal temperature is approximately 97.4, which means that if he has a 99 degree fever, it is the same as when my daughter (who’s normal healthy temperature is 98.4) has a 100 degree fever. In other words, if my son’s temperature is elevated by a degree and a half, he has a fever, whether or not it registers as 99 or 100. (According to some medical professionals, a person is not considered to have a fever unless it is 100, which I believe is nonsense.)

Numbers are relative.

Whenever you are taking your child’s temperature, you need to know what his or her normal, healthy temperature is before you can have an accurate idea of what an unhealthy or sick temperature is.

That said, if you are lacking in the thermometer department, there are other ways to assess a child’s health. How is your child behaving? Normally? Or, is your child listless, unusually cranky, unusually whiny, and complaining of different ailments (in any combination or separately), such as headache, nausea, chills, dizziness, sore throat, cough, ear pain, eye pain, etc.

Also, is your child scalding or warm to the touch? To properly assess this, do not use your hands straight from the freezer. If you feel your child is unwell, by the look of his/her eyes, behavior, or symptoms, do take your child to your physician or other health professional.

Keeping a log will help you and your health professional identify if your child is suffering from a virus (which has to run its course and medicine usually doesn’t help), or a bacterial infection (which can be treated with antibiotics, if you are open to that).

Your child needs to stay well-hydrated, which means s/he needs to drink a lot of water, stay away from sweets and dairy, and increase fruits and veggies if possible. Smoothies made from fresh (pesticide free) fruit and soups made from pureed veggies are a good way to get some much needed extra nutrition into your child. Be careful of using acidic fruits (ie, not too much pineapple, orange, lemon, or lime – some is good, perhaps with honey, as it helps break up the congestion) if your child has a sore throat, as that may sting.

Of course, it’s better not to be sick, so to keep up your immune system, take in plenty of (pesticide free is best) whole fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water, make sure you’re getting plenty of calcium (with a little bit of Vitamin D, but be careful not to overdo your Vitamin D), get plenty of rest as sleep helps the brain stay healthy – which in turn helps the rest of the body stay healthy.

Happy November!