If you’re a parent, you might worry anytime your child has a fever. The concern is understandable. You don’t know what might be causing the fever, and your mind tends to run to worst-case scenarios.
In most cases, though, a child’s fever isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It usually means their body is fighting off an infection — what it’s designed to do. Reducing the fever won’t get rid of the infection, but it helps your child feel better and allows you to re-evaluate their symptoms.
Here are the first steps you should take when your child has a fever, courtesy of the experienced team at Arlington Family Practice in Arlington, Massachusetts.
Evaluate the situation
First, take your child’s temperature. Three basic types of thermometers work the best:
You can use a digital thermometer rectally for children up to 3 years old and orally for kids 4 and older. You can also use it under the armpit, although the reading might not be as accurate with this method.
Temporal artery (forehead) thermometer
This thermometer reads the infrared heat waves from the temporal artery in your child’s forehead.
Tympanic (ear) thermometer
This thermometer reads infrared heat waves released by the eardrum.
A normal body temperature is 98.6°F. A temperature of 100.4°F or higher is considered a fever.
When to call a doctor
You can treat most fevers at home, but call your pediatrician in the following situations:
- A temperature of 100.4°F or higher in an infant 3 months or younger
- A child 3 months or older with a temperature of 104°F or above
- A child 3 months or older whose temperature is above 102°F for over two days
You should also call your doctor if your child has a fever along with other symptoms, such as dehydration, stiff neck, bad headache, vomiting and diarrhea, or an unusual rash.
Techniques to bring the fever down
If your child’s fever is manageable at home, try the following:
Give them a lukewarm bath
Place your child in a lukewarm bath and use a washcloth or sponge to spread the water over their body. Don’t use cold water or add rubbing alcohol to the water to cool them off.
Give them plenty of fluids
Having a fever can easily lead to dehydration, which can make your child’s condition worse.
Dress them properly
Put your child in lightweight, breathable clothing and give them a light sheet for a cover.
Give them medication
You can lower your child’s fever with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) for children over 2 months, and ibuprofen (Advil®) for kids over 6 months. Follow the dosing directions on the bottle. Don’t give any child aspirin.
In most cases, these steps bring relief to your child. If you’re uncomfortable at any point or sense that something isn’t right, call your doctor or take your child to the emergency room.
If you want more advice about how to deal with your child’s fever, the team of providers at Arlington Family Practice is ready to help. Call our office today or request your appointment online.