Kids’ Fevers: When to Worry, When to Relax

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Contributor: Tracy Lim, 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 you are.

It is important for parents to know what to do when this happens. First, some tips on measuring your child’s temperature:

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:

When to call your doctor

Now for the important question: When should you be worried about a fever? Call a doctor when:

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, 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 a pediatrician cannot figure out what is causing them, he or she may refer your child to a specialist. A pediatric infectious disease expert or pediatric rheumatologist may be able to get to the bottom of the issue.

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