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Children's Health

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Fever: If You Feel It, It's Probably There


"I don't want to discredit the back of hand on forehead, but my experience is that a child's head or neck is usually sweaty from playing," says Paula Elbirt, MD, a pediatrician in New York City and the president of, an online pediatric resource.

In fact, there is too much emphasis on fever, says Elbirt, who was not involved with the study. A fever is a just sign that a child is fighting off an infection somewhere in his or her body, she says

"We are fever phobic, and we have to diminish fever phobia among parents," she says. "We overreact to fever in children.

And sometimes we under-react if a fever is not present. "A sick child is sick," she says. "It doesn't matter if they have a fever or not."

That said, the best and most accurate way to detect a fever is to use a rectal thermometer, she says. "It takes just 30 seconds, [but] I am not advocating a rectal thermo every time they go 'boo.'"

Erica Rader knows when her 1-year-old son, Bryce, is sick by his behavior. "He acts lethargic and crankier than usual. Then I may take his temperature rectally," she says.

"I don't really judge for fever by hand because it's not accurate," she says. "He tends to get warm when he is running around, so if he feels hot to the touch I don't assume he is running a fever.

"You have to have your method," she says.

Other signs that may indicate fever include decreased appetitive, wheezing and/or vomiting.

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