Mercury Rising: What to Know About Fevers in Kids

Seeing your formerly bubbly child sidelined by a fever can make a parent feel helpless. It’s hard to tell whether to treat it at home yourself, how to treat it, or whether it would be best to speak to the doctor first. But fever in infants and children is more of a cause for concern than in adults because their immune systems are less developed, making them more susceptible to serious illness. So, it’s important to know the signs to look for and the appropriate steps to take.

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Fevers in children are not normally cause for concern. But know the signs to look for in case your child needs the doctor’s care.

Here’s what you should know about fevers in kids:

In children, a fever is when the body temperature is at least:

  • 100.4 F measured rectally (most accurate measurement)
  • 99.5 F measured orally
  • 99 F measured under the arm

Fevers in children are usually caused by: 

  • Viruses, like influenza (most common)
  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Drugs
  • Toxins
  • Teething
  • Some immunizations

Treatment for fevers  in children:

  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen (preferred) to lower the fever, as directed by your doctor
  • Lukewarm baths or lukewarm towels applied to the skin to make the child more comfortable
  • Fluids for rehydration
  • Antibiotics, if the doctor deems the cause to be bacterial
  • Antifungal medication, if the doctor deems the cause to be a fungal infection

When to call the doctor for infants to age two:

  • When the fever is 101 F or higher
  • If the fever lasts more than a day
  • If your child has a fever and is younger than three months
  • If the child refuses to eat or drink
  • If accompanied by unexplained irritability, like marked crying while being changed or moved
  • If a newborn has a body temperature of less than 97 F
  • If accompanied by Febrile seizures (when a child loses consciousness and control of his motor functions, resulting in a rhythmic shaking of his arms and legs)

When to call the doctor for children age two and up:

  • If child is listless
  • If child is irritable
  • If child vomits repeatedly
  • If accompanied by a severe headache
  • If accompanied by a stomachache
  • If fever lasts more than three days
  • If accompanied by Febrile seizures (when a child loses consciousness and control of his motor functions, resulting in a rhythmic shaking of his arms and legs)

Seek immediate care if high-grade fever is:

  • Is accompanied by lethargy and unresponsiveness
  • The result of being left in a hot car

Most fevers in children are not a cause for concern if your child seems comfortable and continues to play. But remember to monitor the fever and your child’s behavior for the signs that medical attention is necessary.

Sources: emedicinehealth.net, kaiserpermanente.org, mayoclinic.com, and nlm.nih.gov