Cold and Flu FAQ: How to Soothe Your Child

Medically Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD on November 12, 2020

What should I do about a fever?

  • Call your pediatrician if your child is less than 8 weeks old and is running a temperature of at least 100.4 F.
  • Give her plenty of clear fluids. The condition draws water from her body. If she doesn’t feel like drinking, give her small sips every 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen (if child is at least 6 months old), if she feels so bad she can’t sleep or eat. Both lower a fever and ease pain. Never give aspirin. 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. Also call if she hasn't had all the recommended vaccines or has other health problems that make infections more likely or more risky.
  • Try to stay calm -- a fever is how the body fights off an infection.

What’s the best way to check her 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 your child’s 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 kids ages 2 to 5: Use a digital ear or under-arm thermometer. These are not as accurate as the rectal ones, but can give you a general idea about your child’s temperature.
  • For kids 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 down your 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.