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Expert Q&A

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Why do kids alwaysget fevers on Sunday nights?

Asked by Jo, Kennesaw, Georgia

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Why do my kids always seem to get sick on Sunday nights? They love school; it's not that they're trying to stay home. But they get random fevers -- as high as 102 -- out of the blue, and it seems to happen a lot on Sunday nights. Have you seen this in other patients?

Expert Bio Picture

Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert answer:

Thanks for your question. While I don't know of any medical studies showing that children get sick more commonly on Sundays, it certainly does seem that kids come down with illnesses toward the end of a weekend or holiday break, just in time for school or even practically any time the doctor's office is closed.

Who knows whether the symptoms are just being noticed once all the activities wind down or whether a child is simply fatigued enough that their immune system becomes a little weak. If anyone has research explaining whether there is a true pattern of more sicknesses on Sundays and a medical reason for it, I would certainly welcome the information.

It is true, however, that fevers are more likely to happen later in the day. That's because the body's hormone levels (such as cortisol) vary during the day and cause a person's temperature to be the highest between about 4 and 6 p.m. and lowest around 6 a.m.

The range in normal temperatures can fluctuate as much as 1 degree Fahrenheit over the course of a day. A child's body temperature also tends to run a little higher than an adult's, making an afternoon or evening fever much more noticeable. To make matters worse, kids get sick more often than adults (catching as many as eight to 12 colds per year compared with two or three) and stay sicker longer (about two weeks instead of one).

All of these facts together may make it seem more likely that kids are getting a fever on a certain day of the week even though it may just be a coincidence.

Some children do have repeated fevers that are caused by various conditions such as disorders of the immune system, cyclic neutropenia or PFAPA (periodic fever with aphthous stomatitis, pharyngitis and adenitis). These conditions are very rare compared with typical childhood viral illnesses that cause fevers.

However, if you are concerned your children's fevers are overly frequent or are accompanied by other symptoms, please be sure to consult your pediatrician, who may recommend a physical examination, lab tests or other studies.

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