Fever may be the most commonly occurring concern for parents with regards to their child's health. Fever is not harmful. Rather, fever is a symptom of an illness; in fact it is the response of your child's body fighting an infection by making the body less hospitable or comfortable for the infection to live/survive. Think of a fever as a sign that your child’s immune system has recognized and responded to the infection. You may note that your child’s heart rate and breathing rate increase when a fever is present; these responses are not generally cause for alarm.
Fevers can accompany common colds, influenza (“the flu”), ear infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and numerous other infections. Fever can also be associated with some medications, poisonings, and the dangerous condition of heat stroke. Your child’s doctor can help identify the cause of the fever.
Whenever your child has a fever, offer him or her extra fluids to drink to prevent dehydration caused by excess losses from increased body temperature.
As you are probably aware, there are several routes to measure a temperature. For children ages 3 years and younger, a rectal digital thermometer will provide the most accurate reading. Parents often wonder how far to insert the rectal thermometer; 1/2 – 1 inch is appropriate. In children ages 3 – 4 years, axillary temperatures may be taken; when reporting fevers to us, please do not add a degree to axillary temperatures, as that is not an accurate rule. Once children are 4 or 5 years old, measure the temperature with an oral thermometer for greatest accuracy.
Not every child with a fever must be seen in the office. However, any time you are worried about your child’s health, a visit is encouraged. If your child falls into the age and associated fever range listed below, we would like to see him or her in the office that day. If the fever develops overnight, we would like to see them the next day. Very high fevers and severe symptoms should not wait until the following morning. For those questions, please contact us through the answering service.
•Birth – 6 months ≥ 100.5 •7 – 12 months ≥ 101.5 •13 – 24 months ≥ 103 •Any age ≥ 104
While fevers are a healthy response by your child’s body to infection, the fever itself may make your child uncomfortable. For those children, fever reducing medications are available. Options include acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil; ages 6 months and above). Children should not take aspirin. Tepid/lukewarm or even cool baths can assist in lowering your child’s body temperature; however, cool baths may be somewhat uncomfortable. Alcohol sponge baths should not be used.
Click here for answers to frequently asked questions about taking temperature, fever management and medicines
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Silver Spring Pediatrics
Drs. DeConcini, Schooler, Zang, Wang, Yee & Marcus
Image courtesy kentpeds.com