Children’s Health | Family Health
fever

Kids’ Fevers: When to Worry, When to Relax

Tips on temperatures for parents

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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 :)

      • racquel

        Hi my 1 year 10 months son has a fever for almost 3 days now. The temperature is going up and down. I am putting cold cloth on his pore head and giving him paracetamol. He seems normal besides his temperature. He still eats and drinks. He is also taking breast feed every now and then. He actually sleeps at night without crying. Just like normal days without fever. My question is do I have to bring him to the doctor already? His temperature has gone up to 39.6 then I managed to put it down to 38.5 now it stays to 38 point something. Thank you in advance. GOD BLESS!

        • HealthHubTeam1

          I am glad that your son still eats, drinks, and seems normal other than the fever, however due to his age and the duration of the fever ( almost three days) I would highly recommend that you will take him to see his pediatrician. You have been doing the most important things you can
          do when your child has a fever by giving him enough fluids and monitoring him for any signs of serious illness. It is great that your child still plays and interacts with you when you gave him his fever medicine. It is time for you to call his pediatrician.

          – Wadie Shabab, MD., F.A.A.P.

  • 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?

    • dragoonjefy

      Why are people upvoting this? You are on a page titled “kids fevers: when to worry when to relax” and I assume you scroll all the way to the comments to ask a bunch of strangers instead of reading the article??

      • Kelly

        People could be upvoting this because they have the same or similar question and feel asking the same question would be redundant.

        • Karyl

          If they read the article, it’s time for the child to see a doctor.

  • SUZIE

    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!?

    • mama m

      My 2 year old gets a fever EVERY TIME they give him antibiotics. Dr said it could be the immune system’s response to so many dead bacterial cells in his system.

  • 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.

  • Rachel

    My child who is 3 years old in now on day 7 of his fever , has been in hospital twice with it . First time for 5 days next time 1 night . Bloods have come back normal and X-ray normal , had a very bad rash which looked like meningitis and scarlet fever !
    Still not 100% diagnosed and still ill – really worried

    • Rachel

      Fevers have been from 38.4 to 40.1 at its worst , also screams from very bad headaches when his fevers are high !

  • Guest

    My daughter have a low head fever for weeks and a bit of cold sneezing running nose and coughing. I give her medicines and she gets antibiotic for the cold on her chest but the fever is on and off only at nights and she’s behaving normal no drowsiness no pain nothing is this normal

    • jeni

      My daughter has the same thing going on. Only fevers at night. What ended up happening with your daughter

  • Guest

    My daughter have a low head fever for weeks and a bit of cold sneezing running nose and coughing. I give her medicines and she gets antibiotic for the cold on her chest but the fever is on and off only at nights and she’s behaving normal no drowsiness no pain nothing is this normal

  • mari

    My daughter has fever of 103.5 she just turn 5. She frist doctor did know whats wrong with her , so i took her to someone else, now this doctor is tell really nothing helping me out i libe in a little town, she had fever for four days, headache like crazy, but a week ago there was no fever but threwing up, dierrrha, and then three days later she could use the restroom. Someone please help

    • betty

      That happen to my granddaughter and it ended up being a kidney infection

  • Amber

    My daughter had a fever of 103.4 suddenly with no other symptoms. Her hands were shaking and she told me she couldnt breath right. I took her to ER after giving her Ibprofen. They did a chest xray.. nothing. Only thing they found is bacteria in urine. A UTI would not cause high grade fevers. She’s been getting high fevers for spands of 3-9 days over the past few years. Her dad has TRAPS but our local hospital will not test her because it costs a lot of money. Im begining to really think the reason for her high fevers is this Traps Syndrome. Anyone ever heard of it or have a child with it?

    • HealthHubTeam1

      Tumor Necrosis Factor Associated Periodic Fever Syndrome (TRAPS) is a condition in which an underlying genetic mutation can predispose a person to episodes of recurrent fever and a heightened inflammatory response which may include eye swelling, abdominal pain, rash, and/or limb/joint pain. A higher than expected fever can occur than is typical when the body is stressed, for example by infection. TRAPS is passed on genetically in an autosomal dominant fashion, so that mutations can be passed on in families to children. The degree of clinical symptoms people can have with TRAPS mutations is variable. At Cleveland Clinic Children’s patients are examined by a pediatric rheumatologist for diagnosis. If you are able to travel to Northeast Ohio for an appointment, we would be happy to see your daughter. Our physicians see patients at our main campus in Cleveland, Ohio; Richard E Jacobs Health Center in Avon, Ohio; and Twinsburg Family Health & Surgery Center in Twinsburg, Ohio. To schedule an appointment with our team please call 216.444.9000 or 866.275.7496. If you are unable to travel to Cleveland, please let us know where you reside and we can try to make a referral closer to home.

      Andrew Zeft
      Chairman, Center for Pediatric Rheumatology
      Cleveland Clinic Children’s

      • Amber

        I live in Kansas City, Missouri and I am unable to travel to Ohio. Could I get a several to somewhere close here

  • Jarad

    I have a two year old with a fever of 103.7 and she is really sleepy I did give her dehydration pops for kids and water, juice, milk, yet she won’t take much of any. After cold bath her temp goes down to 99.4 she acts like herself for about an hour than fever goes back up and she is ready to sleep again. We have already tried ibuprofen also still no luck please help.

    • Amy Armenta

      You’re not supposed to do cold baths as it can lower their temps too quickly and cause shock. Always do a lukewarm bath!

  • mhairi

    My daughter is 3yrs old been unwell for 3days hasn’t eaten barley drank has done one per, her temp is 39.5℃ very grumpy and just wants to sleep should I call nhsmhair

  • Samantha

    I have a 3 yr old with a fever of 103.8 after taking Tylenol an hour and a half ago. Should I be concerned and take him to the ER.

  • juan

    My 9 year old has a fever of 106 should I take him to the ER

    • Iryna Otchych

      YES!

    • LIZ

      ARE YOU SERIOUS????????????????????????????

    • Natt

      Is this a joke ? Of course you should !

      • #breazymama

        I took my son to 3 doctors with fever 104-105 for 6 days , they all said not to worry until is 108 , we tried everything , cool bath , alternate tylenol to motrin an so forth , did rapid test, blood work, no one knows whats going on , was negative for mono ,if fever doesn’t brake tonight tomorrow I’ll be in the office once again. Btw my son is 6 years old.

        • Liz

          My daughter is on day 6 of fever and been to the docs and took blood tests and pee and now waiting on stool sample results and mono results. What happened after day 8 with your kid? It is so so hard to watch kids get sick especially for so long.;(

  • Jeannette

    My son is 13 months has had fever for 3 days now no higher then 103, he isn’t eating only taking liquids. I took him to the doctor she said to wait it out another day or two because there is no clear sign of why he has a fever. om worried it can be something serious, what should I do? Should I take him into the ER?

  • Iryna Otchych

    I like “Fever all ” acetaminophen suppositories for infants . It works great for older kids . But do not give this in addition to oral medicine. Its one or the other! this one is particularity helpful on the middle of the night.

  • mrs. hix

    My daughter has a small fever of 101.6 she is 17 months old and has slept all day. When she wakes up, all she does is cry. She has been on antibiotics for about 7 days now due to a sinus infection. This is the first fever from the sickness though. Is this strange?

    • Larina VonBuren

      Maybe the antibiotics are not working. I would bring her back for a second look at that infection. may need a different antibiotic.or something else could have started.

  • Lory

    My daughter just turned 5 she has a fever of 100.2 and she says her stomach hurts,she has been saying her stomach hurts for a few days now,I’m not sure what it is?

  • Ashley

    My daughter has the flu and 103 fever. Should I wake her to take Tylenol?

    • Ashley

      She’s 4 years old.

    • HealthHubTeam1

      Hello –
      The general rule is that if you are comfortable enough to sleep
      you should not be awakened for acetaminophen. At some point (usually around 103 (or so) the temperature will make you uncomfortable and you will wake and need Tylenol . It also depends on how the temperature is being taken because at some point anything but a rectal temperature becomes relatively inaccurate. When that happens, it’s not a bad idea to alternate acetaminophen and ibuprofen so that one is given every four hours. Fevers are the body fighting off the infection but should be treated when kids are uncomfortable particularly so they can drink enough to not get dehydrated and sicker. If you would like to schedule a time for your child to see one of our pediatricians, please call
      216.444.KIDS (5437).

      Deb Lonzer, MD

      Chair, Community Pediatrics
      Cleveland Clinic Children’s

  • jennifer

    My daughter is 11 she has had fevers since Tuesday night she is so tired and doesn’t eat or drink much what should I do

  • Eli

    My baby is 1 year and 1 month old. He started with fever last night. With today its a day and a couple of hours. I take his tempature with the thermometor that goes under his arm. It turns out to be 102.8 the highest has been 102.9, it lowers than comes back up again. He does wnt to eat milk that much, but is eating a little bit of other things. He has pooped once and has been peeing ok. Please help i am really nervous what should i do? :(

  • fe

    my son is 12 as has an extremlly high temp,i have gave him meds and a cold cloth across his head and his temp is still obove average,i am normally clued up on this kind of thing as my 8yr old daughter is unwell more often than my son as he is very very rarely unwell,any suggestions please.

  • Rodney

    My 3yearold boy is complaining bout a headache is there to give him

  • mrs. s

    My 2 year old daughter been having high fever since sunday 02/08. I took her to the doctor today and her ears and throat are fine but she has a cough and a lot of mucus. The doctor said he couldnt give me antibiotic and that the fever should get better as time past. Well guess what my daughter fever doesnt want to break and i dont know what to do.

  • julie

    My 9yr old has a fever of 40 and is sleeping a lot she is usually very active and hasn’t passed urine all day she has also vomited twice complaining of a headache and pains in her tummy she is prone to water infections any advice please

  • tita

    hi my daughter has a cough runny nose and everytime she cough she cries cause it hurts she doesnt want to eat and wants to sleep shes a year and a half should i take her in shes been like this two days know and i gave her obuprofen but it goes and comes back

  • mommy

    My son is 1yrs old an have an 103.8 temp what should i do

  • snowmoon

    Why are people polling the internet when they should be calling their child’s pediatrician?

  • Kristina

    My 2 year old daughter came home Friday with a fever anywhere from 101 to 103. I gave her a dose of tylenol and her fever seemed to be breaking she went to bed early and woke up Saturday feeling much better like her normal self. She then got sick (vomiting) as we were leaving the store and again when we got home (about 530pm)she then spiked another 102 fever. I gave her a dose of motrin and she slept a cpl hours.woke up feeling better, didn’t eat much but was drinking water and gatorade. She started feeling feverish again when(no more than 101) I gave her a dose of tylenol she went to sleep. Same thing the next day she didn’t want to eat much but was drinking got feverish In the evening. I alternated tylenol and motrin. Today she has also developed avery. chesty congested cough along with the other symptoms. She just woke up at 2am with a 103 temp in a coughing fit. Gave her the next dose and a nebulizer treatment (wheezing) and she acting normal. She has also had sticky yellowish goop in her eye and overtime she spikes a fever (she literally turns into sick mode in an instant

  • Kristina

    **every time she spikes a fever her heart rate jumps. Resting its anywhere between 160-180.

  • marcy

    My 6 Yr old had a fever just last month and now she got a fever again. Is that normal?

  • Samantha Lovesherhusband Walto

    My granddaughter has had a fever for 5-6 days Sundays she’s ok then wham it’s back is it dangerous to have fever over certain number of days

  • Heather

    My son is 2, and we went to the e.r last night. They said he has the flu, his fever was 102 when we took him up there, I just checked it abt 30 mins ago amd its 101, he has thrown up twice, amd now when he goes to sleep he jerks and has woken up several times telling me he has fell.. and hes talkin in his sleep. He never does this. Should I be worried? I cannot sleep. I dont want it to get worse. Its 4:22 in the a.m.

  • yen

    my question here is, why my child only had a fever during at midnight or early morning then gone on the afternoon or at evening…still pkaying and eating

    • HealthHubTeam1

      Hi Yen,

      Temperatures vary throughout the day whether we are sick or well. If the temperature stays below 100.5-101 it’s ok to just keep an eye on the child as you are. If the fever is higher then it is a good idea to document temperatures and times of day and then see your pediatrician when you have a few days of information.
      – Deb Lonzer, M.D., F.A.A.P.

  • bvega

    Please help. My son is 3 has had a fever all day. Highest temp so far is 103.8 been treating with Motrin every 4 hours.

  • Zena

    My son just been discharged from hospital one issue was a temperature of 38 plus but since he has been home I have kept a eye on his temp and its reading 35.9 should I be concerned or is this ok thank you

  • Leighanne5566

    My son is 2 and for the last three days his temperature has been going between 39.5 and 40 .. He has been very sick when he eats or drinks, although not been sick in 24 hours, but still got the temperature and not himself! He’s been TRYING to eat but as soon as he puts food in his mouth he’s bolking and spitting it out and getting himself very worked up. But my son also has problems breathing so he gets that worked up he’s struggling to catch a breath but won’t let me give him his inhaler :( he is just so fragile, and is very weak and drowsy!

  • Mayday

    My son has had diareah once he woke up this morning and a fever of 101.6 what should I do

    • HealthHubTeam1

      Fevers are a sign of the body fighting off an infection and are not dangerous, especially if they only last a few days and are under 102.
      Make sure that he gets enough fluid and if he starts looking worse or having high fevers have a pediatrician check him out!

      The younger the child, the more we worry – so if he’s under 6months we like to check sooner and if he’s under 6 weeks we want to see him now.