Antipyretic: Definition & Effect

Instructor: Bethany Lieberman

Bethany is a certified OB/GYN nurse who has a master's degree in Nursing Education.

In this lesson you will learn what an antipyretic is, go over examples of antipyretics, and explore a situation when an antipyretic may be used. You will also learn about the technique's effects on the body.

Fever Panic

Mrs. Roberts is frantic. Her three-month-old baby, James, feels hot and is fussy. She took his temperature and he has a fever of 101.9! In a panic, she immediately calls the pediatrician who tells her James needs an antipyretic. This only adds to Mrs. Roberts' state of panic -- she has absolutely no idea what an antipyretic is.

What Is An Antipyretic?

The pediatrician explains to Mrs. Roberts that an antipyretic is just a fancy name for something that prevents, reduces, or relieves a fever. The name is derived from the term anti, which means against, and the Greek word pyretos; which means fever or pyr (fire). The doctor explains to Mrs. Roberts that an antipyretic can be as simple as a cool bath or an ice pack, or she can use medication.

It's important for Mrs. Roberts to know that a fever is not an actual illness, but instead is the body's natural way for fighting off an infection. Fever slows down the growth of bacteria and viruses and activates the body's immune system by enhancing white blood cell production. Not all fevers require an antipyretic, and the goal of antipyretic therapy should be aimed at improving the comfort of the baby. Since Mrs. Roberts' baby is more fussy than usual, James may benefit from some medication.

There are actually three classes of medications that can be bought over the counter to reduce fever. The three classes are salicylates such as aspirin, acetaminophen (more commonly known as Tylenol), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as Advil or Aleve. For babies, acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be administered by mouth according to the baby's weight.

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