Fever in Children - What You Should Know

  • Fever indicates that the immune system has been "turned on." It is rarely a cause for panic, and in children is most commonly a healthy response to a viral illness. It usually will last for about 72 hours, will fluctuate between 100.5 and 105.0, and will rarely go above 105 even if medication is not given for fever. Fevers up to 105 in children do not necessarily cause harm.
  • Give cool fluids frequently, if tolerated. Encourage but don't force! Children with fevers often don't want to eat at all—that is ok as long as they are drinking about half of their usual amounts or more, and are urinating some at least every 8 hours.
  • Dress lightly—light clothing and one light blanket for sleeping is adequate. If the child is shivering/chilling bundle him/her up just until the shivering stops, and then remove the extra layers one by one as long as chilling does not return.
  • Consider fever medicines if the child seems uncomfortable. Ibuprofen (6 months old and above) or acetaminophen are good choices to use—see dosage chart under our Frequently Asked Questions page. Resist the urge to medicate solely based on what the thermometer says, or because "it's time." If your child is alert when awake, is drinking well, and seems comfortable you don't need to medicate for fever.
  • Never give a child under 18 years of age aspirin, unless directed by his/her doctor.
  • Infants less than 12 weeks of age need to be seen for any fever > 100.4 measured rectally. Infants have more subtle signs of illness, and must be evaluated if febrile. Infants 3-6 months of age will rarely have a fever > 102, but if this occurs a call to the office is indicated, as long as the child otherwise seems okay.
  • Lukewarm baths may help if the fever is 104 or higher and the child is not due for another dose of fever reducing medicines yet. Never do cool baths for fever.
  • Frequent hand washing is important to prevent spread of illness.

Call your child's health care provider or have your child seen if:

  • Any signs of dehydration occur—mouth sticky inside, tearless crying, or no urine output for more than 8 hours (infant) or 12 hours (toddler and above) Go to the Emergency Room!
  • Infant less that 12 weeks of age with fever > 100.4 rectally
  • Child is not alert when awake
  • Child cannot touch chin to chest
  • Chilling with fever is present > 30 min continuously
  • Severe pain—doesn't want to be held or moved
  • Difficulty breathing other than a stuffy nose
  • Pain with urination
  • Fever is higher than 105 or 100.3-105 for longer than 72 hours
  • This information did not help and you are concerned

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