What to Do When Your Child Has a Fever

January 15, 2022

what to do when your child has a fever; Sick boy with thermometer laying in bed and mother hand taking temperature. Mother checking temperature of her sick son who has thermometer in his mouth. Sick child with fever and illness while resting in bed.

Fevers in children can be worrisome for parents, especially for first-time moms and dads and parents of infants. Before we dig into what to do when your child has a fever, let’s define what qualifies as a fever. 

What is a Fever?

A fever is defined by most doctors as a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or higher and can be part of the body’s way to fight off infection. On its own, a fever is not generally considered dangerous but in young children or individuals with other health concerns, a fever should be checked out by a doctor.

As a parent, it can be hard to determine whether a visit to the pediatrician is necessary for a fever. Here are some tips for what to do when your child has a fever: 

1. How to Measure Your Child’s Temperature

There are a variety of thermometers available, but parents often wonder which kind is best to accurately measure a child’s temperature. For older children that are able to tolerate it, an oral temperature is most accurate but for infants and young children, a digital rectal thermometer is best. If you feel uneasy with this method, you can place a thermometer in your child’s armpit. 

Some parents prefer to use a temporal (forehead) or ear thermometer instead. Whatever device you choose, just be sure to read the instructions prior to use. 

Fevers are classified in different levels: 

  • Low-grade fever: 100.5 to 102.2 F
  • Moderate-grade fever: 102.3 to 104.0 F
  • High-grade fever: 104.1 to 106 F
  • Hyperpyrexia: over 106 F

2. Monitor for Other Symptoms

As the temperature rises, fevers can become increasingly uncomfortable for children. You may notice other symptoms along with their fever. Each child is different, but here are the most common symptoms associated with fever: 

  • Irritability
  • Less active or talkative than usual
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Dehydration
  • Chills
  • Body aches

3. Know When to See a Doctor

Usually, a fever is caused by a common infection, most of which are not serious such as a cold virus. However, a fever may indicate the presence of a serious illness. Monitor your child’s temperature and symptoms. If any of the following conditions are present, contact us to schedule an appointment:

  • Under 3 Months old with a fever of 100.4°F or higher
  • 3 to 6 months old with a fever of 101.0°F or higher
  • Over 6 months old with a fever of 103.0°F or higher
  • Your child still has a fever and is lethargic even after taking fever-reducing medication
  • A fever in a child of any age that ranges between 104.0°F and 105.0°F
  • Your child has a fever and compromised immunity
  • A fever in conjunction with severe pain
  • A fever that lasts more than 3 consecutive days with or without an obvious source of infection (such as cold symptoms)
  • Your child is having obvious breathing difficulties
  • Your child is lethargic, has a rash, refuses to eat, or is having trouble breathing
  • Your child has a febrile seizure
  • Your child has a fever following a trip overseas
  • A combined fever and sore throat that lasts more than 24 to 48 hours
  • Signs of dehydration are present, such as a dry mouth and fewer wet diapers or urination frequency
  • A fever accompanied by pain when urinating
  • A fever accompanied by a headache, stiff neck, or red spots or purple-colored patches on the skin

4. Ways to Reduce a Fever

Whether a doctor’s visit is necessary or not, there are some ways that you can help reduce your child’s fever. 

  • Excess clothing can trap body heat and cause the temperature to rise, so dress your child lightly. 
  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids, such as water or juices. If you’re having a difficult time getting them to drink, popsicles are a great alternative to help prevent dehydration.
  • Give your child a bath in lukewarm water, not cold water. Don’t allow your child to shiver from cold water, as this can raise the body temperature, and never leave your child unattended in the bathtub. 
  • Placing a cold washcloth on the forehead, wrists, or groin where the blood vessels are closest to the surface of the skin can help reduce their body temperature. 

Holly Springs Pediatrics offers same-day appointments for sick visits when your child is in need of immediate medical attention from an illness. If your child is experiencing one or more of the symptoms above, please contact our office immediately at (919) 249-4700.

If it is after hours, please leave a message with our answering service and a provider will return your call. If you believe your child’s illness is life-threatening, please take them to the nearest hospital who will then contact our office.