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5 Facts about Kids’ Fevers and When to Call a Doctor

Posted by Johnson Memorial Health on Dec 26, 2017

Almost every parent has felt the panic that accompanies a rising fever. As your child’s temperature creeps up, it’s hard to know whether to call a doctor. Is it just a little cold? Is it a sign of something more serious?

Here are five facts about fevers that will help you make a judgment call about seeking further care. Of course, it never hurts to go ahead and call the doctor for advice!


Fact No. 1: Fevers are Usually Normal and Natural

A low-grade fever is the body’s normal immune response to bacteria and viruses. As the body temperature rises, these invaders become uncomfortable and have a tougher time surviving.

How much is too much? That’s what worried parents always need to know.

  • For an infant under 3 months old, a rectal temperature of 100.4F or above is cause for serious concern of infection. Go to an emergency room or doctor immediately.
  • For babies from 3 months to 1 year old, a temperature of 100F is cause for calling a doctor for advice depending on your baby’s medical history.

Fact No. 2: Fever Medication Should Be Used Sparingly

Fevers are accompanied by feelings of crankiness, exhaustion and alternating hot-chill sensations. When a parent sees their child going through this experience, they want to do everything to ease their suffering.

Too often, parents go straight to fever-reducing medications like Tylenol or Motrin at this point. Unless the pediatric doctor recommends medication, reconsider giving it right away. Give your child’s fever a chance to do its job.

Fact No. 3: Fevers Don’t Come Down and Stay Down

It’s a common misconception that a fever should simply rise and then lower without rising again. In truth, fevers often dip and spike as your child’s immune system deals with an infection.

Fevers usually last two to three days with most viral infections. During this time, a fever may increase and decrease in intensity. The younger the child, the more cause for concern on fever variability and length.

In a child under two years of age, a fever that lasts more than one full day is cause to call the doctor. For children over two, a persistent fever for more than three days should be discussed with the doctor to see if something else is going on, like a secondary infection.

Fact No. 4: Don’t “Starve a Fever”

The old adage that says “feed a fever, starve a cold” holds very little truth. Instead, focus on making your child comfortable while the fever runs its course.

  • Encourage your child to eat small meals, but a low appetite is normal.
  • Ensure your child drinks fluids and stays hydrated for the duration of the fever.
  • Provide blankets for when your child feels chilled.
  • Dress them in loose clothing that can be removed when they feel hot.

Fact No. 5: Some Symptoms are More Serious

If your child has a fever plus one or more of the symptoms below, call a doctor. This could indicate something more than a common cold is happening.

  • Extremely drowsy or fussy
  • Rash
  • Complains of earache
  • Tight or swollen throat
  • Labored breathing
  • Faints
  • Stiff neck
  • Seizure

Still concerned? Never hesitate to call the experts at Johnson Memorial Health for more information about fevers.

Topics: Pediatrics