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Fever In Children

What is a fever?

A fever is an increase in your child's body temperature. A fever may be a sign of a medical problem that needs to be treated. A fever can be serious in young children.

What causes a fever in children?

Fever is commonly caused by a viral infection. Your child's body uses a fever to help fight the virus. Fever can also be caused by vaccines. The cause of your child's fever may not be known.

What temperature is a fever in children?

  • A rectal, ear, or forehead temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • An oral or pacifier temperature of 100°F (37.8°C) or higher

  • An armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher

What is the best way to take my child's temperature?

The following are guidelines based on a child's age. Ask your child's healthcare provider about the best way to take your child's temperature.

  • If your baby is 3 months or younger , take the temperature in his armpit. If the temperature is higher than 99°F (37.2°C), take a rectal temperature. Call your baby's healthcare provider if the rectal temperature also shows your baby has a fever.

  • If your child is 3 months to 5 years , take a rectal or electronic pacifier temperature, depending on his age. After age 6 months, you can also take an ear, armpit, or forehead temperature.

  • If your child is 5 years or older , take an oral, ear, or forehead temperature.

What other signs and symptoms may your child have?

  • Your child may have chills, or he may sweat or shiver.

  • Your child may have a rash.

  • Your child may be more tired or fussy than usual.

  • Your child may have nausea and vomiting.

  • Your child may not be hungry or thirsty.

How is a fever in children diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask when your child's fever began and how high it was. He will ask about other symptoms and examine your child for signs of infection. Your child may also need the following:

  • Blood and urine tests: A sample of your child's blood or urine is sent to the lab to check for an infection.

  • Imaging tests: If blood and urine tests do not explain the cause of your child's fever, he may need imaging tests, such as an x-ray.

How is a fever treated?

Ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help decrease your child's fever. They can be bought without a doctor's order. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child and how often to give it.

How can I make my child more comfortable while he has a fever?

  • Give your child plenty of liquids:

    • Help your child drink at least 6 to 8 eight-ounce cups of clear liquids each day. Give your child water, juice, or broth. Do not give sports drinks to babies and toddlers.

    • Ask your child's healthcare provider if you should give your child oral rehydration solution (ORS) to drink. An ORS has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar your child needs to replace body fluids.

    • If you are breastfeeding or feeding your child formula, continue to do so. Your baby may not feel like drinking his regular amounts with each feeding. If so, feed him smaller amounts more often.

  • Dress your child in lightweight clothes: Shivers may be a sign that your child's fever is rising. Do not put extra blankets or clothes on him. This may cause his fever to rise even higher. Dress your child in light, comfortable clothing. Cover him with a lightweight blanket or sheet. Change your child's clothes, blanket, or sheets if they get wet.

  • Use a cool compress: Dip a clean washcloth into cool or lukewarm water. Wring it out and place it on your child's forehead or on the back of his neck.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child's rectal, ear, or forehead temperature is higher than 100.4°F (38°C).

  • Your child's oral or pacifier temperature is higher than 100°F (37.8°C).

  • Your child's armpit temperature is higher than 99°F (37.2°C).

  • Your child's fever has not gone away after 3 days.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's fever.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child's temperature reaches 105°F (40.6°C).

  • Your child has a dry mouth, cracked lips, or cries without tears.

  • Your baby has a dry diaper for at least 8 hours.

  • Your child is less alert, less active, or is acting differently than he usually does.

  • Your child has a seizure or has abnormal movements of the face, arms, or legs.

  • Your child is drooling and not able to swallow.

  • Your child has stiffness of the neck, confusion, or will not wake up.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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