Fever In Children: What To Do

Learn what to do when your child/children have a fever.

Twenty years ago the goal of pediatric fever therapy was to wipe out any elevated temperature. Today medical professionals understand that a fever is not an illness in itself, but the immune system's response to a viral or bacterial invasion.

The human body requires a core temperature of over 99 degrees in order to kill heat-sensitive micro organisms. Since children have higher metabolic rates, their normal temperatures can range from 99 to 100 without this being considered a fever.

Health care professionals consider 100 to 102 a low grade and beneficial pediatric temperature. From 102 to 104 is considered a moderate and still beneficial temperature. Temperatures of 105 or above need prompt medical intervention but are not considered dangerous or harmful until they reach 106 to 107.



The best way to take an infant or toddler's temperature is with an old fashioned rectal thermometer. The caregiver needs to hold the thermometer in place for three minutes. For the less cooperative toddler or young child an ear thermometer will give a slightly less accurate but generally acceptable reading, and has the advantage of quick readings.

An axillary temperature reading is suitable for older children, and must be held in place, snugly in the armpit for a full five minutes. Oral thermometers are quite accurate but require proper placement under the tongue and a full three minute reading.

Temperatures of 100 to 102 require no fever reducing (anti-pyretic) medication. If there are other symptoms such as a sore throat or earache then either Tylenol or ibuprofen can be used. Tylenol is suitable for children over 3 months and ibuprofen for ages 6 months and above. Never give a patient under 18 years aspirin, (danger of Reye syndrome).

Fevers of 104 or above require tepid baths given after the fever reducing medication and repeated every 4 to 6 hours. Fevers that last over 3 days need medical intervention. A fever of 100.5 or above in infants under three months needs prompt attention, as do fevers accompanied by severe headache, stiff neck and purplish red spots on the chest known as petechiae.

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