A Guide to Fevers in Kids

By Author

Fevers occur when the body’s internal thermostat raises the body temperature above its normal level. There are different causes of fevers, but there are a few ways to know if they should be considered serious.

fever

Hot foreheads, otherwise known as fevers, occur when the body’s internal thermostat raises the body temperature above its normal level. This can be concerning, especially If you’re the parent of a younger child who is experiencing one as we speak. 

The average normal temperature of the human body is about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 37 degrees Celsius. While infection is what we almost always assume is the cause, there are a few other causes of fever that are less concerning:
  • Immunizations – babies and kids sometimes get a low-grade fever after getting vaccines
  • Teething – may cause a slight rise in body temperature
  • Overdressing – true for infants who are overdressed and don’t regulate body temperature as well as older kids
To even be sure it’s a fever, just feeling the forehead is usually enough to know your child’s temperature is above normal. Otherwise, taking his/her temperature is a good idea. The following temperatures are considered “feverish” when taken from different areas of the body:
  • Orally (mouth) over 99.5 F
  • Rectally (bottom) over 100.4 F
  • Axillary (underarm) 99.0 F
When is a fever considered serious?

Fevers are very normal and many resolve in 24 hours or less. However, if a fever persists over 24 hours, it’s usually a symptom of an underlying problem.
Infants ages 3 months or younger with a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher should get immediate attention, from either your doctor or an emergency department. 

For kids ages 3 months to 3 years that have a fever of 102.2 F or above, prompt a call to your doctor for advice. Providing medication to treat the fever will be based on the child’s symptoms and discussion with the doctor. The following may help you determine if the problem is serious:
  • If the child is not playing as he or she normally would
  • If the child is lethargic, or not eating and drinking as well as normal
  • If the child is not as alert or as happy as normal
  • If the child’s skin doesn’t look a healthy color
  • If the child remains feverish after 24 hours
  • If persistent diarrhea and/or vomiting, sore throat, ear ache, chronic medical condition, rash, or pain with urination accompany the fever

For helping kids feel better from a fever, you may give your children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen (Tylenol or Motrin) as directed by package directions based on age/weight (assuming no allergies). Never give aspirin unless instructed by your doctor. And remember - kids 3 months and younger should seek immediate medical attention. Some other ways to help your child feel better include:

  • Cold compresses
  • Luke warm sponge baths
  • Adjusting temperature of home/room
  • Rehydrating
  • Electrolyte supplements (pertaining to dehydration – ask your doctor beforehand)
  • Resting and staying home from school