What should I do about my child's fever?

What should I do about my child's fever?
5 Min Read

Our pediatricians are trained to care for children of all ages, including newborns.

What should I do about my child's fever?

If your child has a fever, it is a sign that the immune system is fighting the infection. Lowering the fever won't make the infection go away, but it can relieve some of the discomforts and provide an opportunity to reassess your child's symptoms.

What temperature is considered a fever for a child, the best ways to reduce a fever, and when to see a doctor or go to the emergency room?

What temperature is a fever for a child?

Normal body temperature is about 98.6°F. A temperature of 100.4°F or above is considered a fever in an infant. Look for the following signs of a feverish child:

  • Feels warmer than usual sweating
  • Shivering
  • Loss of appetite
  • General body aches
  • Fussiness

If you think your child has a fever, use a thermometer to take their temperature or visit the nearest pediatric urgent care clinic.

Which thermometer is the most accurate?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the best type of thermometer is a digital thermometer, and a rectal temperature will be the most accurate reading for an infant or toddler. The next most accurate method is to use a temporal artery thermometer to read the temperature on the forehead.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to stop using mercury thermometers to avoid accidental poisoning. Glass/mercury thermometers are easy to drop and break and are tempting for children to touch the exposed mercury.

Three Recommended Types of Digital Thermometers

  • Digital multi-use thermometer: This reads the body temperature when the sensor on the tip of the thermometer touches the body. It can be used for rectal, oral, or underarm readings. Recommended for children up to 3 years of age (rectally) and 4 to 5 years of age and older (orally).
  • Temporal Artery (Forehead Thermometer): Reads infrared heat waves emitted by the temporal artery, which runs across the forehead. Recommended for babies 3 months and older.
  • Tympanic (Ear Thermometer): Reads infrared heat waves emitted by the eardrum. Readings are obtained by inserting them into the ear. Recommended for ages 6 months and up.

How do you reduce a child's fever?

  • Fluids: Offer plenty of fluids to drink. Prolonged fever can lead to dehydration.
  • Sponge Bath: Give your baby a warm sponge bath to lower his body temperature. Do not put your baby in cold water or use alcohol to cool him down.
  • Comfort: If your baby seems cold, cover it with a light blanket.
  • Clothing: Remove unnecessary clothing to make your child feel comfortable. Dress your child in light, breathable clothing.
  • Medications: Consider using antipyretics such as acetaminophen for children (Tylenol for children) and ibuprofen for children (Motrin for children). Consult your pediatrician for the right dosage for your child.

When should you worry about a fever?

Call your primary care physician if your child has:

  • Less than 3 months of age with a temperature of 100.4°F or higher
  • 3 to 6 months of age who has a temperature up to 102°F and appears very lethargic or irritable (also, if the fever is over 102°F, without other symptoms)
  • 6 to 24 months of age with a temperature greater than 102°F, lasting longer than one day.