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Children’s Health | Family Health

Kids’ Fevers: When to Worry, When to Relax

Tips on temperatures for parents

Contributor: Terra Blatnik, MD

Fevers can be a very scary thing for parents, particularly for first-time moms and dads. Every child will eventually experience a fever, no matter how careful we are! It is important for parents to know what to do when this happens. First, some tips on measuring your child’s temperature:

  • A variety of thermometers are available, from standard oral thermometers to the newer temporal artery scanners. You can use any of these devices. 
  • It is most accurate to use a rectal thermometer for infants and young children. If you feel uneasy doing this, use whichever device makes you most comfortable.

When to keep your cool

So what is a fever? We define a fever as a temperature over 100.4 F (38.0 C). Normal body temperature is 98.6 F (37 C). Everyone’s body temperature varies throughout the day, and can differ by age, activity level and other factors. Don’t be alarmed if your child’s temperature varies. The magic number for fever is 100.4 F.

When should you NOT worry about your child’s fever? We tend not to worry about:

  • Fevers of less than five days if your child’s behavior is relatively normal. You don’t need to be concerned if your child continues to be playful, and is eating and drinking normally. (He or she may seem more tired than usual.)
  • Temperatures of up to 102.5 F if your child is 3 months to 3 years of age, or up to 103 F if your child is older. These temperatures can be normal.
  • Low-grade fevers if your infant or child was recently immunized. These can be normal if they last less than 24 hours.

When to call your doctor

Now for the important question: When SHOULD you be worried about a fever? We want you to contact us when:

  • An infant younger than 3 months of age develops a fever. Fevers may be your infant’s only response to a serious illness.
  • Your child’s fever lasts more than five days. We may need to investigate further for underlying causes.
  • Your child’s fever is higher than 104 F (> 40 C).
  • Your child is not acting himself or herself, is difficult to arouse, or is not taking in enough liquids. Babies who are not wetting three diapers per day and older children who are not urinating every eight to 12 hours may become dangerously dehydrated.
  • Your child was recently immunized and has a temperature above 102 º F or a fever for more than 24 hours. 
  • You are concerned! If you are uncomfortable with your child’s temperature or illness, call your doctor or nurse practitioner to discuss it.

What to do if a seizure occurs

Seizures are a very scary side effect of fevers in some children. “Febrile seizures” occur in 2 to 4 percent of all children under age 5. Not all seizures cause jerking movements in the body. Some seizures look like “passing out.” If your child develops a seizure:

  1. Put your child on his or her side.
  2. Do NOT put anything in your child’s mouth.
  3. Call 911 if the seizure lasts more than five minutes.

If the seizure lasts less than five minutes, we want you to call your physician or seek immediate medical attention.

What to do about multiple fevers

If your child has persistent or multiple episodes of fever and we cannot figure out what is causing them, we may refer your child to a specialist. A pediatric infectious disease expert or pediatric rheumatologist may be able to get to the bottom of things.

Tags: Be Well e-News, dehydration, fever, seizure
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  • andrea

    My kid has a fever of 100.4 is it okay to let him sleep ? or should I take him a bath to cool him out first

    • Evie

      That is a low fever, you don’t even need to treat it. Let him sleep :)

  • Adrianna

    My so is 9 months and his temperature is 102.3 , what should I do ?
    I gave him a cool bath and he’s still hot , all he wants to do is sleep.

    • blue

      get him to the doctor ASAP

  • Cerise

    This article on Myths and Tips for fever was helpful for our family. http://www.famlii.com/toddler-fever-parent-concerns-myths-fever-in-toddlers/

  • Maura

    My 8 year old has a fever of 104. He says his legs hurt and he has a headache. What should I do?


    My daughter has a temperature of 101.8! That’s the best reading we could get because she skwirms around when I put thermometer under her arms. But what should I do? Its 11pm. And my other kids are asleep. Should I take her to the e.r.?

    • SUZIE

      She’s not fussing. I’m just worried;(

      • :)

        If her fever hits 103.. U should take her to the ER. If not just keep her dressed in fresh clothing. Put a wet cloth on her head or even have her take a semi warm(fresh is better) bath. afterwards just have her relax. If she’s cold but her fever is up again give her a light sheet. Give her some fruits like Apple, pear, banana or u can buy those ice pops with electrolytes

    • Mommy2Leesi

      Buy the temporal thermometer, they are more reliable and work for the wiggle worms which I have myself. They are available even at your local pharmacy. You put it on the center of their forehead, hit the button, and lightly drag it across in a straight line until you cross their hairline, release button and there you have it. And if they are sweating, there is an alternative method which is to just tap the thermometer head behind the ear lobe. I love it, wouldn’t trust anothe that’s for sure.

      P.S. I would also call my child’s doctor if her temp was 102 or above, personally. That’s just me though. I rather be safe.

      Good luck

  • DLopez

    My 8 yr old has been sick with fever for 5 days. It has gone up to 102.6 and down to normal. She complains about a headache, stomach, hard to breath, sore throat, sore body, exhausted, ate only 3 saltines for the whole day. She has had a swab (for strep), pee sample (unknown), and X-ray of her chest (for pneumonia). Everything came back normal.
    After her X-ray she got a rash ear to ear on her lower jaw all the way down her chest and into her armpits. She had no medication and no one at the Drs office or Hospital put anything on her. I got her up to take her to the ER but by the time we got there the rash had disappeared. I know it wasn’t my imagination because it was my mom who saw it first (that was the 3rd day) but the past 2 days the rash has returned and disappeared 3 more times. She has no appetite, but thankfully is drinking water. I keep an eye out on her breathing and her fever all day but how long is to long for a fever

    • Kt

      Maybe Hand foot mouth disease? My son just had it and apparently it’s normAl. No treatment.

  • Tiine

    My son had pneumonia and took anti bio tics and three days after he was done with antibiotics he got a fever and it has gotten up to 102.6 . Today is the fourth day that he has gotten a fever and he is tired of taking his medicine . What should I do? Is this normal after taking antibiotics for pneumonia? Help!?

  • Alissa M

    My son is 15 months . He’s been running a fever off and on kind for two days . Seems to be hard to break . Still acting like himself playing when he feels like eating to some extent still urinating what seems normal . Im not sure if I should be running off to the dr or let it run its course?

  • mom

    My child is a year old. Yesterday he had a fever of 102.6 and broke during the night. He has one again today at 102.9. He just lays there with no energy makes a few noises and goes in and out of sleep. Is this normal or am I worrying for a reason? Please help.