Treating Fever in Children

Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on November 20, 2022
3 min read



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.

  • 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 months to 3 years old and has a fever of 102 F or higher or has had any fever for more than one day.
  • The child has 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.


  • 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.
  • If the child's temperature is higher than 100.4 F, call your pediatrician. A child this age should always be seen by their pediatrician if they are sick.
  • 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,


  • 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.


  • You don't need to treat the fever unless the child is uncomfortable or has a history of seizures with fever.
  • Make sure the child gets plenty of fluids and rest.
  • You can give infant- or child-formula acetaminophen (Tylenol), following dosage instructions on the package. 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 and liver disease.
  • Call your pediatrician to see if you need to bring your child in to see the doctor.
  • 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.