Fever in Children

Fever in Children

When your child is not feeling well, and you suspect a fever, but are unsure of what to do next. Should you get out the thermometer? Call the doctor? Give medication?

In healthy kids, FEVERS usually don’t indicate anything serious. We all know it is frightening when your child’s temperature rises, but a fever itself does no harm and can actually be a good thing. A fever is a symptom when your child’s body is fighting an illness. We typically treat fevers with medication that are fever reducers to make your child feel better and to prevent dehydration.

What TEMPERATURES can you expect when your child is sick. Guidelines state that you should call your pediatrician if he has a temperature at or above:

100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and he is under three months old
101 degrees Fahrenheit and he is between three and six months old
103 degrees Fahrenheit and he is over six months old

Just as important as your child’s temperature, please consider this advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics:3

In most cases, your decision to call your pediatrician also will depend upon associated symptoms such as earaches, cough, sore throats, etc…
With a fever that persists for more than twenty-four hours, call your pediatrician even if there are no other complaints or findings.

How to measure if your child has a fever:

Types of Thermometers

Rectal thermometers are the most accurate, but they can be uncomfortable, so should usually be reserved for infants under about 3 months old, although some people continue to use them until their child is 3 years old.

Oral thermometers are also accurate, but they are usually reserved for older children, since they must usually be held in the mouth with the mouth closed, for at least a minute or so. You can also place this thermometer under the axillary area, but it is sometimes difficult to get an accurate reading.

Ear thermometers are fast and easy to use, but they must be placed in the ear properly, can be expensive, and ear wax may interfere with the reading.
Temporal thermometers are becoming increasing popular, they obtain a fast reading and are easy to use, but they can still be expensive.
What you need to know:

If you call the pediatrician and they ask how high the fever is, remember to report the temperature you received along with the route you took the temperature, oral, temporal, etc…
It is helpful with temporal thermometers or ear thermometer, to take 2 or 3 readings and average them together.

Remember that your child’s temperature doesn’t usually tell you how sick your child is or even what they might have, since he could have a high fever with a cold, the flu, strep throat, or many other conditions.

Treatment for a fever

Use a warm washcloth. Placing a warm washcloth on the forehead, neck, chest will help bring down the fever.
Place your toddler in a warm bath.
Unbundle your child. Do not apply lots of clothes or blankets.

Fever medications
Tylenol: Tylenol is considered the safest pain reliever and fever reducer available. It is available for use in children as young as 2 months old. It comes in infant and pediatric formulas.
Tylenol should be used every 4 hours. Do not exceed more than 6 doses in 24 hours.
Guide to Pediatrics’ Tylenol Dosage Calculator
Ibuprofen: is another medicine that can be used to lower a fever in children over 6 months of age. Also called children’s Motrin or Advil.
Ibuprofen can be given every 6-8 hours. Do not give more than 4 doses in 24 hours.
Ibuprofen dosage calculation

You can also alternate between Tylenol and ibuprofen every 4 hours to help control fevers.

Aspirin should never be given to a child or teenager because it may cause a potentially fatal disease known as Reye’s syndrome.
And remember that it is not always necessary to give your child a fever reducer. In most cases, fever is treated as a comfort measure. Treating a fever, especially if it is caused by an infection, will not help your child get better any faster, but it may help make her feel better.

If you have any concerns about your child or questions about their fever and treatment please contact your child’s pediatrician.

1Subjective assessment of fever by parents: comparison with measurement by a noncontact tympanic thermometer and calibrated rectal glass mercury thermometer. Hooker EA – Ann Emerg Med – 01-SEP-1996; 28(3): 313-7
2Ability of mothers to subjectively assess the presence of fever in their children. Banco L – Am J Dis Child – 01-OCT-1984; 138(10): 976-8
3Your Baby’s First Year. The American Academy of Pediatrics

This blog is just providing basic information on pediatric healthcare. If you are concerned about your child or have questions please contact your child’s doctor.