It’s natural to worry when your child develops a fever – after all, fevers have been known to cause all sorts of complications – but in most cases, a childhood fever is nothing to worry about. In fact, a fever is actually evidence that your child’s body is doing its job: Raising the body temperature, which signals white blood cells to attack whatever has invaded the body.
Definition: A fever is defined as ≥ 100.4° Fahrenheit or ≥ 38° Celsius
The causes of fevers vary dramatically, but are usually not serious. Some causes of childhood fever include:
- Viral infection
- Bacterial infection
- Heat exhaustion
- Severe sunburn
- Certain medications
- Certain immunizations
Occasionally, the cause of a fever cannot be readily identified. If your child exhibits no other symptoms, is alert and engaged, and has been thoroughly examined by her pediatrician, the doctor may diagnose a fever of unknown origin that requires no further action.
A common childhood fever may be accompanied by a host of other symptoms or none at all. Low-grade fevers (those below 103° F) may be accompanied by:
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
High-grade fevers (between 103°F and 106°F) tend to be more serious and may be accompanied by:
In some cases, your child may not need any treatment beyond careful observation and fluids to prevent dehydration. If there is an underlying infection, allowing the fever to run its course may actually help by strengthening your child’s immune system.
- Children don’t automatically need a fever reducer if they have a temperature. Look at the child, not the thermometer. If the fever is bothering the child, treat with ibuprofen or Tylenol. If not bothering them, it is okay to monitor it.
- Ibuprofen (for children > 6 months of age) or acetaminophen
- Dress your child in lightweight, breathable clothing
- Have your child drink Pedialyte or other rehydration drinks in order to replenish vital minerals that he/she may have lost
Contact your doctor if your child has any of the following symptoms:
A parent’s immediate response to their child’s fever should vary depending on the child’s age. Keep in mind that a temperature a degree above or below the “normal” 98.6° F is not, considered a fever, since body temperature changes throughout the day and every individual is different.
When to be concerned. Some guidelines.
- 0-3 months: Rectal temperature of 100.4°F or higher or < 97° F (Should seek medical attention immediately)
- 3-6 months: Temperature is 102° F or higher and accompanied by irritability, lethargy, or discomfort (Needs to be evaluated)
- 6-24 months: Temperature is 102°F or higher for more than 48 hours (Needs to be evaluated)
For children over 2 years:
- Exhibiting listlessness or irritability
- Fever lasts longer than three days
- Exhibiting poor eye contact and responsiveness