Your Child Has a Fever. Now What?
Fevers are a normal body response that is a red flag of sorts. It happens to signal that there is a problem somewhere in the body. A fever is usually a sign of an infection, but there are other causes too. For example, checking a child’s temperature when they are all bundled up in blankets and jammies can cause their temperature to appear higher than if they weren’t so snuggly. Fevers can also happen as a reaction to an immunization. So, when should you worry about a fever? Find out here.
Treatment for fevers isn’t always necessary. Pediatricians recommend treatment based on the child’s age and any other factors affecting them. For example, if a fever prevents a child from properly hydrating or being uncomfortable, treatment may be recommended. As the temperature in the body rises and falls, chills and sweating may occur. This is the body’s way of regulating temperature and should be expected.
What is Considered a Fever in a Child?
Depending on the child’s age, treatment can vary. Except for infant’s under three months of age, fevers that are under 102 F typically do not require treatment. Please see the table below for details on how best to help your child if they have a fever.
|Age of Child
|How to Treat
|Under 3 months of age
|If your child has a rectal temperature of 100.4 F or higher, contact their pediatrician for an appointment or go to the emergency department immediately.
|3 months to 3 years of age
|Contact your child’s pediatrician if they have a fever of 102.2 F or higher.
|Over age 3
|Parents of children over age three who have a fever should consider the child’s behavior and activity level should be considered. If the child is alert, eating and drinking, wants to play, and/or has a normal skin color, there is probably not a serious illness. If the child has a fever over 102.2 F, is lethargic, and does not want to drink, contact their pediatrician.
The best way to check a child for a fever varies with age. The most reliable method is to check the temperature using a rectal thermometer. However, depending on the child’s age, this may not be possible or appropriate. Detailed information on the different methods and tools for taking a temperature can be found in our article here.
When Is It Appropriate to Use Medication for Fevers in Children?
Just because a child has a fever doesn’t mean they need medicine. The body is designed to self-regulate temperature. That is why it is common to get chills with a fever – the body is working to decrease the temperature. But sometimes, the body needs help in regulating temperature. That’s where fever-reducing medication, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, is beneficial. This medicine may be given to a child over three months of age if they are uncomfortable or fussy. Follow the package dosing instructions for the age and weight of your child before giving any medication. Avoid using a table- or teaspoon for dosing as they increase the risk of overdose. Never give a child aspirin unless instructed to by their pediatrician because of their risk of developing Reye syndrome. Your child’s pediatric provider is a trusted resource for proper dosing instructions. When in doubt, give them a call.
The team at Rainbow Pediatrics is here to keep your family healthy. If you have questions about accurately checking your child’s temperature or are concerned about your child’s fever, give our office a call.