What to Know About Fevers in Children & When to Worry
When your child has a fever, it can cause major concern. However, it’s important to understand why the fever is occurring and how to treat it.
In this blog, we’ll address three common concerns regarding fevers in children.
- What is a fever & why is it happening?
- How to treat a fever at home
- How to treat a fever if away from home
What is a Fever?
Fever is the body’s natural immune system response to infection. A fever is our body’s way of creating an environment inhospitable to bacteria or viruses.
What temperature is a fever in children?
A child’s average body temperature is between 97.5°F and 99.5 °F. Fever in children is a body temperature of 100.4°F or higher.
Fever in Children Under Three Months
Use a rectal thermometer for children under three months old. This is the most accurate way to catch small temperature changes. For example, the difference between a rectal temperature of 100.2°F and 100.4°F can result in very different outcomes.
For children under three months, watch and record temperature fluctuations. A fever should be closely monitored for children under three months of age. This includes any child with an impaired immune system. The underdeveloped immune system may be unable to fight off an infection as well as it should. As a result, your child can worsen quickly.
Fever in Children Over Three Months
In children over three months, no defined degree of fever should start an immediate visit to a healthcare provider. In this case, virtual care is available to give you peace of mind. However, the elevated body temperature in children over three months won’t cause damage to the brain or body unless it gets above 107°F.
How to Recognize a Fever in Children Without a Thermometer
Fever can result in a child feeling sleepy, cranky, clingy, achy, or uninterested in eating or drinking. You may notice they take faster breaths and register faster heartbeats.
While the fever itself isn’t always dangerous, the infection it’s paired with may need additional testing or treatment. It’s important to look out for the following signs to know when contacting a clinician is necessary.
Four signs you need to involve a clinician include:
- Trouble breathing
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Difficulty swallowing or intaking fluids
- Severe pain
How to Treat a Fever at Home
You can treat fevers at home to relieve symptoms. If your child doesn’t appear to improve with treatment, even if their fever drops, continue to check them. If needed, seek a virtual visit or an in-person evaluation as a follow-up.
What to do when your child has a fever:
- Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen as indicated on the packaging or as instructed by a clinician. In general, do not give ibuprofen to infants less than 6 months old.
- Encourage fluid intake. Your child should be urinating on their own every 4-8 hours.
- Keep the room temperature an average of 70°F – 74°F.
- Use lightweight clothing and blankets.
- Give warm baths.
- Keep your child home from school or daycare until their temperature is back to normal for 24 hours.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
What not to do when your child has a fever:
- Do not give Aspirin to children under 18. This can cause a condition called Reye’s syndrome, which causes swelling in the liver and brain.
- Do not put your child in a cool bath.
- Do not use rubbing alcohol on the skin.
- Do not apply ice or ice packs.
- Do not bundle or swath your child with heavy clothes or blankets.
- Do not give caffeinated drinks (soda, tea, coffee, or other). Caffeine increases urination, which can contribute to dehydration.
These countermeasures can interfere with your child’s ability to regulate their temperature on their own. In some cases, it can worsen their condition.
How to Treat a Fever if Away from Home
It’s always when you’re away on vacation or out of town when your children get sick. Virtual care is essential if your child comes down with a fever when on the go.
You have access to a clinician from wherever you may need care, even in remote areas. You can quickly connect with a virtual clinician using your phone, tablet, or computer. TeamHealth Virtual care is available 24/7/365 on days, nights, weekends, or even holidays.
If your child appears very sick or is badly injured go straight to an emergency room (ER) for care. Watch to see if your child is: having trouble breathing, uncontrollable bleeding, severe pain, or confusion, seizures, or is non-responsive. In severe cases, call 9-1-1 for immediate evaluation and treatment.