Fever: The Facts and What to Know

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Fever can happen at any time of year and is especially common this time of year. Parents all know that feeling of hearing their child cry and touching their warm skin when they have a fever. Most parents worry when their child has a fever; however, a fever in of itself is actually a good thing. It means that the body is fighting whatever infection is causing it.

It is important to know when fever is not dangerous and you can stay calm vs. when it could be serious and you need to call the doctor. Your child’s age determines how to handle the fever and when you should call your child’s doctor:

Less than 3 months

Temperature of 100.4 or more is when you should call your pediatrician. The baby needs to be examined immediately. At this age, babies are at risk for bacterial infections that are very treatable, but need to be treated quickly. Often, fever is the only symptom that the baby may have. You shouldn’t give any medications to babies at this age until seen by your doctor.

iStock_fever

Three months to six months

A fever of 101 or more is when you should call your pediatrician and have your little one examined. You can give fever reducing medication, such as Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol), although not necessary.  (*Do not give babies less than 6 months Ibuprofen (e.g. Motrin), and never give any age child Aspirin.)  If it is overnight, and if your child is comfortable when the fever is down, you can often wait until the next day to be seen by the pediatrician. If, however there are other symptoms, your pediatrician will let you know if you need to be seen immediately or the next day.

Over 6 months

A fever of 103 or more is when you should call your pediatrician. You can give fever reducing medication if needed, Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (e.g. Motrin).  Ibuprofen works well for higher fevers and pain. If your child is still not comfortable when the fever is down, you should call your doctor. If the fever lasts three days, then you should call the pediatrician for an examination.

thermometer

For all ages with fever, encourage fluids.  A lukewarm bath or wet washcloths can help to bring the fever down as well.

If your child has any of the below symptoms (even when the fever goes down) you should call the pediatrician:

  • Is lethargic (meaning extremely limp or unresponsive)
  • Is irritable
  • Has a rash
  • If your child is complaining of neck pain
  • If your child is vomiting or light hurts his/her eyes
  • If there is shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • If your child has a fever 104 or more, or if the fever doesn’t come down with fever reducing medications

In summary, know that the fever is a good thing – that it’s your child’s body fighting infection. Although it can be very difficult to see your child with a high fever, it is good to know when you can stay calm. It is also good to always have fever medication on hand in case you need it. Be sure to ask your pediatrician about the dosage for your child after each well visit.

Trust your instinct.  If there is any concern with your child and a fever, call your pediatrician.

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Ali is a board certified pediatrician who practiced general pediatrics for five years in a busy private practice in Manhattan NY. She since has moved into the pharmaceutical industry and oversees and mentors many physicians globally. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experiences as a pediatrician with other moms and dads. Ali’s outside interests include working out, acting, piano, guitar, dance and being a mom! Ali currently lives in NYC with her husband, 3 year old daughter and 1 year old son.

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