Skip to Content

Fever In Children

What is a fever in children?

A fever is an increase in your child's body temperature.

What causes a fever in children?

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

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 caregiver 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: These 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.

  • Antibiotics: Your child may need antibiotics if he has an infection caused by bacteria. Antibiotics help kill the bacteria. Give your child this medicine until it is completely gone, even if he feels better.

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 caregiver 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.

Should I sponge bathe my child when he has a fever?

Sponge bathe your child if he is vomiting and cannot take fever medicine. Use lukewarm water to sponge bathe. Never use rubbing alcohol, ice, or cold water to give a sponge bath. Check your child's temperature about 30 minutes after the sponge bath. Sponge bathe 1 hour after you give fever medicine if:

  • Your child's temperature is at least 104°F (40°C).

  • Your child or another family member has had seizures caused by fevers.

  • Your child vomits and you do not know how much medicine he has kept in his stomach.

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • Your baby is 2 months old or younger and his temperature reaches 100.2 °F (37.9 °C).

  • Your child is 3 to 6 months old and his temperature reaches 101°F (38.3°C).

  • Your child is over 6 months old and his temperature reaches 103°F (39.4°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?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • 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.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

Learn more about Fever In Children