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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Cold and Flu FAQ: How to Soothe Your Child

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What should I do about a fever?

  • Call your pediatrician for any fever in a baby less than 2 months old.
  • Try to stay calm by remembering that fever is how the body defends itself against an infection.
  • Offer fluid often. Fever increases the chance of dehydration. If your child doesn’t feel like drinking, offer small sips every 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen if your child can’t sleep or eat because he’s so uncomfortable. Both reduce fever and ease pain. Never give aspirin to children with a fever because it can lead to Reye’s syndrome, a serious problem.
  • Call your pediatrician if a fever lasts more than 24 or 48 hours -- or if your child also has a headache, vomiting, or a rash. Or call if your child hasn't had all the recommended vaccines or has other health problems that make infections more likely or more risky.

What’s the best way to take my child’s temperature?

A digital thermometer is easy to use and safer than a glass mercury thermometer, which can sometimes break. The best specific type of digital thermometer depends on age.

  • For babies and toddlers: Use a digital rectal thermometer because they’re the most accurate and easiest to use with children this age.
  • For ages 2 to 5: Use a digital ear or under-arm thermometer. These are not as accurate as rectal thermometers, but can give you a general idea about your child’s temperature.
  • For ages 5 and older (who won’t bite down): Use a digital mouth thermometer. (The label may say oral thermometer.)

Once you have the right thermometer:

  • Before using: Wash it in lukewarm soapy water, then rinse and dry with a clean paper towel.
  • Insert according to package directions, then wait until the thermometer beeps to tell you it’s ready to read.
  • Write downyour child’s temperature and the medicine you give. List the time and the dose if you use medicine to reduce fever. Share this information with your pediatrician if you need to call.
  • After using: Wash and rinse the thermometer or wipe it with rubbing alcohol. Store it in a container in a cool, dry place.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on October 21, 2014

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