Many parents are concerned about fever.  However, fever is not an illness itself, but a symptom of an underlying condition like infection.  In general, fevers are not considered dangerous unlike hyperthermia due to extreme temperature.  Hyperthermia can be dangerous because the body is no longer able to control its temperature.

A part of the brain called the hypothalamus controls the body’s temperature.  A normal temperature is considered 98.6, but varies throughout the day and can range from 97° – 100.3° F.  As a response to things such as infections, the hypothalamus may reset the body to a higher temperature.  This helps certain types of cells in the body fight off infections better.  Fever is a temperature 100.4° or higher.  A fever is considered low grade from 100.4° – 102.1° F, moderate from 102.2° – 104° F, and high above 104 F.

For infants 3 months and under, you should not give fever reducing medications.  You should call your doctor or seek medical attention right away.

After 3 months of age, assess your child’s symptoms and behavior.  There is no magic number that makes a fever worse.  If the child is eating and drinking well, still playing, alert and smiling, and has a normal skin color, then the illness is probably not serious. 

Fever can be treated with fever reducing medications which will help the child feel better.  Children under 3 months old should not be given any medication prior to seeking medical attention.  Children can be given acetaminophen (Tylenol).  Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) should not be given to children under 6 months old.  Children under the age to 18 years old should never be given aspirin because it can cause a serious illness called Reye’s Syndrome.  It is also not recommended to give ice baths or alcohol baths.  Ice baths can cause the temperature to drop too quickly in addition to causing shivering.  Alcohol baths can be toxic if too much alcohol is absorbed through the skin.

Children should be seen by a healthcare professional if:

  • They are less than 3 months old with a fever of 100.4° or higher
  • Refuses fluids or unable to drink
  • Has persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Concern for dehydration (decreased urination, dry mouth, not making tears)
  • If they have specific symptoms (ear ache, sore throat, etc.)
  • Has a chronic medical problem
  • Has a rash
  • Fever lasts longer than 24 hours in children less than 2, or 72 hours in children older than 2

 Seek emergency care if:

  • There is fussiness or irritability
  • You have trouble waking the child
  • If there is a rash or spots that look like purple bruises on the skin
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Trouble breathing
  • Seizure
  • Skin discoloration

Call your healthcare provider for any concerns or questions you may have.