Fever

Facts about fever

Fever is a common problem with illness in children. It often results from an infection caused by a virus or bacteria (germ). Some infections are serious and need to be cared for in the hospital. Many others can be cared for at home.

NOTE: For babies less than 12 months old – take the temperature in the rectum (the opening where the bowel movement or stool comes out). Other methods are not as accurate in infants.

Should I treat my child's fever?

Your child's doctor will talk with you about specific care for your child. In general, not all fevers need to be treated. Some reasons to treat a fever include if your child:

  • Is not comfortable when the fever is high.
  • Will not drink enough fluids when the fever is high.

How do I treat a fever?

Your child's doctor will talk with you about specific care for your child. Some general guidelines to follow include:

  • Give acetaminophen (Tylenol® or other less costly store brand). Follow the directions on the box carefully or ask your child's doctor how much medicine to give.
    • This is often the only medicine a child with fever needs to feel better.
    • It may take 60 to 90 minutes for these medicines to work.
    • Do not give acetaminophen to babies under 3 months of age without a doctor's order.
    • Do not give your child more than 5 doses of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period.
  • If you give your child the correct dose of acetaminophen every four hours and he is still not comfortable, you may give him ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil® or other less costly store brand) every six hours instead. If you do this, stop giving him the acetaminophen.
    • Do not give ibuprofen to babies less than 6 months of age without a doctor's order.
    • If your child has chickenpox, asthma, kidney problems or bleeding problems, ask your child's doctor before giving ibuprofen.
    • Follow the directions on the box carefully or ask his doctor how much medicine to give.
  • Do not give any aspirin.
  • Check with your child's doctor or pharmacist before giving acetaminophen or ibuprofen with other medicines. This includes over-the-counter medicines.
  • Tell your child's doctor if your child is taking any vitamins, herbal products or other supplements or home remedies.
  • Dress your child very lightly. Do not bundle or cover with a blanket.
  • Give him lots of cool liquids.

When should I call the doctor?

Call your child's doctor right away if your child has one or more of the following symptoms:

  • He does not smile or play for even a few minutes every four-hours
  • He shows signs of dehydration (drying out):
    • No urine in six hours in an infant younger than 12 months old
    • No urine in more than eight hours in a child older than 12 months old
    • No tears when crying
    • Sunken eyes
    • Dry lips and mouth
  • Vomits more than 2 times.
  • He is not comfortable, even when held
  • He seems to be breathing hard or fast even after the fever has been treated with medicine.
  • He develops a rash
  • The fever lasts more than three days
  • He complains of any persistent pain such as earache, pain with voiding or stomach pain.
  • For a baby less than 2 months old with any fever who has not yet been checked by a doctor for the fever.
  • For a baby 2-6 months old with a fever more than 102.2°F (rectally) who has not yet been checked by a doctor for the fever.
  • For a baby 6-24 months old with a fever more than 103°F (rectally) who has not yet been checked by a doctor for the fever.
  • You have any concerns about how your child looks or feels.

Check with your child's doctor about when to call for a fever if your child:

  • Sees a doctor or specialist for a medical condition on a regular basis.
  • Has had urinary tract infections (UTI) in the past.

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