Fever is something that all parents fear. This is easily understandable because sometimes fever can be a sign that something is seriously wrong with your child. However, fever is usually not a sign of any dangerous infection, but caused by a viral infection. Most children experience simple viral infections several times a year, such as the common cold or the stomach bug. Here are some helpful facts regarding this common symptom.
What is a fever? — A fever is a rise in body temperature above 100.4ºF (38ºC). You can measure it in different locations—oral, forehead, ear, armpit and rectal. The most accurate locations are oral and rectal. If you measure in the armpit, you will need to add a degree. For example, an armpit temperature of 99.8 would actually be a fever of 100.8.
When should you contact your Pediatrician regarding fever?
If your child is less than 3 months old. (call immediately)
Fever over 102 in children 3 to 36 months.
Fever lasting longer than 3 days in children over 3 years of age.
If your child has difficulty breathing.
If your child has a rash with the fever.
If your child is irritable or very sleepy even after giving Tylenol or Motrin.
If your child has significant pain with any movement of neck or extremity.
If your child is on medications that makes their immune system weak.
What can I do to help my child feel better?
Offer your child extra fluid to drink.
Encourage your child to rest as much as he or she wants.
Sponge baths are usually not necessary to bring the temperature down.
Do not use rubbing alcohol on the skin or in bath water to treat fever
How are fevers treated?
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil) can bring down fever.
Antibiotics only treat bacterial infection and the majority of fevers are caused by viral infections.
Never give aspirin to a child younger than 18 years of age because it can cause a dangerous condition called Reye Syndrome.
Again, make sure your child is getting plenty of fluids and rest.
When can my child return to school or daycare?
With most viral infections, your child is not contagious anymore after he or she has had no fever for 24 hours.
With strep throat, your child can return to school or daycare 24 hours after starting antibiotics.
What Else Should I Know?
All children get fevers, and in most cases they are back to normal within a few days. Fever is a natural response to infections and is not dangerous. In fact, the fever helps the immune system fight off the infection more effectively. However, if you are in doubt about what to do because your child is acting ill with or without fever, always call your Pediatrician.
Eric Harding, MD
Internal Medicine & Pediatric Clinic
New Albany, MS