Fevers can be scary to parents, and can make children very uncomfortable—but they generally are a normal response to an infection. Fevers actually help fight infection!
When your child has a fever, you don’t automatically need to do anything (see below for when a fever requires immediate attention) and not all fevers are cause for worry. Fevers resulting from an infection do not cause brain damage. In fact, a fever itself is not dangerous until it reaches around 108 degrees—and this only occurs when exposed to extreme environmental heat, like a parked car. A fever responding to infection will not get this high.
The height of the fever does not tell you what is causing the fever. Viral infections can cause fevers just as high as bacterial infections.
Giving medicine to reduce a fever
Fever-reducing medicine like Tylenol and ibuprofen are best used to make your child more comfortable, not to restore a normal temperature. It is not necessary to wake a child to administer Tylenol and if your child is comfortable and appears well, they do not need medicine just to bring a fever down. It is ok to give the fever a chance to fight the infection. However, if your child is fussy, uncomfortable, or looks sick, it is ok to give Tylenol even with a low-grade fever.
We recommend bookmarking our easy dosing guide for future reference!
Common fever symptoms
The following symptoms commonly occur with a fever. You don’t necessarily need to call the doctor if your child has these symptoms unless you have other concerns.
- Faster heart rate and breathing that occurs when the child has a fever but improves as the fever comes down
- Cold hands and feet
- Head and body aches
- Tired and fussy demeanor
- Poor appetite
Fever in babies
A baby less than 3 months old with a rectal temperature of 100.4℉ or higher should be seen immediately. In newborns, a low temperature, less than 97.6℉ (rectal) can also be a sign of a serious infection. Call our office or take the baby to the emergency room.
When to call a doctor
Call us right away if your child has a fever and:
- Looks very sick, is excessively fussy, or is difficult to arouse
- Has severe symptoms like a severe headache, abdominal pain, throat or ear pain, a stiff neck, an unexplained rash, uncontrolled vomiting, and diarrhea
- Has had a seizure
- Has difficulty breathing
- Has signs of dehydration (dry mouth, no tears, or has not peed in 6-8 hours)
- Recently had immunizations and fever is higher than 102℉
- Still acts really sick once the fever is brought down
- Has been in a very hot place, like a hot car
- Has an immune problem
Call us during office hours for an appointment if:
- The fever lasts for more than 24 hours in a child younger than 2 years old
- The fever lasts for more than 3 days in a child older than 2 years old
- You suspect your child has a bacterial infection like an ear infection, strep, pneumonia, a UTI, or has redness or swelling in one area
- Your child seems to be getting worse
- You are worried or have any other concerns. Remember, you know your child best. Follow your instincts and call if you feel something is wrong.