Clinical Thermometer - Idaho Falls Pediatrician

What Is A Fever And How To Treat Fever In Children And Infants

It is common for parents and caregivers to worry when a child or infant has a fever. Should you call the Pediatric Center? Should you give the child medicine? Are there things you should not do for fever in children? First, you should know that fevers are usually harmless. They are a sign that the body is in the process of fighting off a virus, infection, or illness. They are evidence that the child’s immune system is functioning. A fever is not a sickness, but is only a symptom of a sickness. So you should not only try to determine what is causing the fever, but you can also treat the fever to help your infant or child feel better and more comfortable while they are sick.

What A Fever Is And It’s Symptoms

A fever is simply a higher than “normal” body temperature. People’s bodies can vary in temperature depending on health, age, activity, even the time of day and clothing can affect a body’s temperature. For fever in children, most pediatricians consider a temperature of 100.4°F or 38°C or higher to be a fever. How do you know when to call a doctor at The Pediatric Center? If your child is an infant less than 2 months of age and has a temperature of 100.4° or higher, call your doctor. If your child is older than 2 months and has a fever, call your doctor if they are also displaying the following:

  • Looks very ill, is unusually drowsy or fussy
  • Has been in a overheated space, such as a hot car
  • Has had a seizure
  • Other symptoms present such as stiff neck, unexplained rash, very sore throat or earache, repeated vomiting or diarrhea
  • Has immune system problems such as cancer or sickle cell
  • Has been taking steroids
  • Has fever over 103°F or has a fever for over 3 days

If your child does not conform to the above symptoms, is over 6 months in age and has a fever of less than 101°F, you probably do not need to treat the fever. Instead, just watch the behavior of the child. If he or she is eating, drinking and sleeping fine just wait to see if they improve on their own. If you want to do more, you can dress them in light clothing, keep their room comfortably cool, encourage drinking extra fluids like water, juice mixed with water and even store bought electrolyte fluids. These can all help to ease your child’s discomfort.

Bringing Down Fever In Children

If your child has a fever over 101°F and is older than 2 months old, you can try to reduce a fever. You can try:

  • Reducing fever with medicine
  • Reducing fever with a bath

Babies who are younger than six months can be given acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). Babies older than 6 months can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Take the right kind of medicine for your child’s age. Ask your doctor at The Pediatric Center or a pharmacist how much to give a child under 2 years of age. Be sure to follow the instructions for dosage and intervals between dosages for any medicine used for fever. Remember, NEVER give ASPIRIN to any child under the age of 18 for fever. You can also try a cool bath to bring down a fever in children. This works for children with a fever higher than 104°F and they cannot take medicine. The water should be cooler than your child, but still lukewarm, NOT cold. Sponge the water over the child’s body for 5-10 minutes. Do not use rubbing alcohol either in the water or directly on skin. Rubbing alcohol can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled and causes very serious health problems, even coma. Be careful to watch the child for shivering. Shivering can increase a fever, so if the child becomes cold, remove them from the bath immediately. In review, to bring down a fever:

DO:

  • Use medicines such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen carefully and according to their directions appropriate for your child’s age
  • Use a warm (lukewarm) sponge bath for fevers over 104°F for 5-10 minutes at a time.

DON’T:

  • Ever give aspirin to any child under the age of 18 for fever
  • Use rubbing alcohol in any instance to bring down a fever in children
  • Let the child shiver in a bath, which can raise the child’s temperature more

If you feel like your baby or child is very sick, or is still acting sick after a fever is brought down, call The Pediatric Center. Also, call your doctor if fever in children persists longer than 24 hours in children younger than 2 or more than 3 days in children older than 2.

How To Take Temperature Of Infants Or Children

If you suspect a fever in your children, you will need to take their temperature to make sure. Always use a digital thermometer for children. Do not use a glass and mercury thermometer. A digital thermometer can be used in children orally (in the mouth), rectally (in the rectum) and axillary (in the armpit). Which method you use is usually dependant on the child’s age. A rectal temperature reading is recommended for infants newborn to 3 years of age. Oral methods can be used for children 4 years of age and older, and axillary can be used in children 3 months of age and older. Rectal and oral temperatures are more accurate than axillary readings. Be sure to use one thermometer only for rectal temperatures and label it as such so it does not get put into a mouth later. Tympanic, or ear thermometers are also acceptable, but must be used properly. Keep in mind that ear wax buildup can cause an inaccurate reading. For any method used, please make sure it is done correctly and carefully. Wait for the thermometer to finish it’s reading for the most accurate temperature. Keep thermometers clean before and after taking temperature readings.

Fevers in children can be alarming for worried parents. Remember they are part of the immune system’s functions and most of the time they are harmless. Keeping your child comfortable and letting the fever run it’s course is perfectly fine for fevers less than 101°F in children older than 6 months. For a fever over 100.4°F in an infant less than two months, call The Pediatric Center, as well as for fevers over 103°F and lasting longer than 3 days. We are here for you and your children until the fevers are cooled and the children are well.

Feature Image Credit: By MenchiOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51236