Fever is the body’s natural response to infection, and need not be treated unless the child is irritable or uncomfortable. Indeed, many illnesses may pass more quickly if we avoid “fever phobia” and let the child run some degree of fever. Most fevers in children are caused by viruses. If your child is less than two months of age and is running a fever of greater than 100 degrees under the arm, or 100.4 degrees rectally, you must call our office immediately.

For infants and toddlers, the preferred method for measuring temperature is a rectal thermometer. If you are not comfortable with this method, you may take the temperature under the arm, but you must leave the thermometer in place for five to seven minutes.  Don’t worry about adding a degree, subtracting a degree etc.—just tell us when you call how you took the temperature! Ear thermometers are fairly accurate for children over two years of age, but are not recommended for younger children.

If your child is irritable or uncomfortable with the fever, or if the temperature is over 102 degrees, acetaminophen (Tylenol) will probably help. Refer to the chart on the next page for the proper dosage. If the acetaminophen doesn’t seem to be helping after an hour, or if your child is achy or experiencing flu-like symptoms, you may try ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil.)  Your child must be at least six months of age to be given ibuprofen.  Refer to the chart in this baby book for proper dosage for both products.

When a child is running a fever it is best to encourage cool liquids and dress him or her as lightly as is comfortable. If a fever is greater than 103 degrees and acetaminophen and ibuprofen are not working, you may try a warm sponge bath to remove some heat from the body.  Never use cool water or rubbing alcohol. Remember—high fever does not cause brain damage or any long-term harm!

Also, don’t expect the temperature to return to normal after a dose of fever reducing medicine, and don’t be surprised if the fever returns or “spikes” again a few hours after the medicine is given.

Parents often ask when they should call about a fever. Our answer is based not on the degree of fever, but on the other symptoms associated with the illness. A fever of 104 degrees in a child who is smiling and drinking fluids is less concerning than a fever of 102 degrees in a child who is listless and quite ill appearing. The bottom line is to trust your own instincts. If you’re ever concerned about your child’s illness, please call for advice. That’s why we’re here!

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Is Your Child Sick?®