Treating Fever in Children

Call 911 if the child:

A high temperature can be alarming, but in an otherwise healthy child it usually isn't something serious. A fever often means that a body is working the way it should and fighting off infection.

Call Doctor If:

  • You think the child needs medical attention.
  • The child is younger than 3 months old with a rectal temperature of 100.4 F or higher.
  • The child is 3 to 6 months old with a temperature of 101 F or higher or has had any fever for more than one day.
  • The child is older than 6 months and younger than a year with a temperature of 103 F or higher or has had any fever more than one day.
  • The child is 1 to 2 years old with a high fever lasting more than 24 hours.
  • The child is any age with a temperature of 104 F or higher.
  • The soft spot on the child’s skull is bulging.
  • The child vomits repeatedly or has severe diarrhea.
  • The child has signs of dehydration, such as not wetting diapers, crying without tears, dry mouth or mucous membranes, or sunken soft spot.
  • The fever triggers a seizure.
  • The child has a fever and a rash.
  • Your child is at special risk for serious infections. This includes children with blood or immune disorders, or any child who has not received the routine immunizations.

For Infants Younger Than 4 Months Old

1. Take Temperature

  • The most accurate way to take a temperature is rectally. If you are uncomfortable with this, then take temperature under the armpit. If it is higher than 99 F, then double check it rectally using a rectal thermometer to get the most accurate reading.

2. Call Your Pediatrician

  • If the child's temperature is higher than 100.4 F, call your pediatrician.
  • Bathing or sponging the child with lukewarm water may help bring down a fever. Do not use cold water, ice baths, or alcohol.
  • Do not give any medicine unless discussed first with the doctor,

Continued

For Children 4 Months Old or Older Who Have Been Immunized

1. Take Temperature

  • Rectal. For a child under 4 or 5 months, use a rectal thermometer to get an accurate reading. A child has a fever if the rectal temperature is above 100.4 F.
  • Oral. For a child over 4 or 5 months, you can use an oral or pacifier thermometer. The child has a fever if it registers above 100.4 F.
  • Ear. If the child is 6 months old or older, you can use an ear or temporal artery thermometer, but this may not be as accurate. Still, under most circumstances, it's a reasonable way to get a good enough estimate. If it's essential that you get an accurate reading, take a rectal temperature.
  • Armpit. If you take the child’s temperature in the armpit, a reading above 100.4 F usually indicates a fever.

2. If Temperature Is Below 102 Degrees F

  • You don't need to treat the fever unless the child is uncomfortable.
  • Make sure the child gets plenty of fluids and rest.

3. If Temperature Is Above 102 Degrees F but Below 105 Degrees

  • You can give child-formula acetaminophen (Tylenol). Ask your pediatrician before giving any fever-reducing medicine to a child for the first time.
  • Bathing or sponging the child with lukewarm water may help bring down the temperature. Do not use cold water, ice baths, or alcohol.
  • Do not give aspirin to a child under 18 years of age because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, a dangerous brain disease.
  • Call your pediatrician to see if you need to bring your child in to see the doctor.

4. Follow Up

  • A child should not return to school or day care until the child is fever free for at least 24 hours.
  • Call your pediatrician if the fever lasts for more than two days, gets higher, or you are concerned.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on September 11, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Family Doctor.org: "Fever in Infants and Children."

UpToDate: "Patient Information: Fever in Children (Beyond the Basics.)"

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