Fever is the only symptom
temperature above 100.4°F (38.0°C).
Oral temperature above 99.5°F (37.5°C).
Axillary (armpit) temperature above 99.0°F (37.2°C).
Pacifier temperature above 100°F (38.0°C). New
digital electronic ones are accurate.
Ear (tympanic) temperature above 100.4°F(38.0 C) (Note: Not reliable for less than
6 months old.)
Temporal artery (TA) temperature above 100.4 F (38.0 C) (Note:
more reliable than tympanic thermometers, but not to be used for children under
6 months old)
colds and other viral infections. Fever may be the only symptom for the first
12-24 hours (ie viral fevers). The onset of symptoms (runny nose, cough, diarrhea,
etc.) are often delayed. In the case of Roseola, fever may be the only symptom
for 2 or 3 days. The cause of the fever often can't be determined during the
first 24 hours.
See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this
is present with the fever, see that topic (e.g.,
RASHES, WIDESPREAD AND CAUSE UNKNOWN).
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR FOR FEVER
Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance)
or very weak.
Unresponsive or difficult to awaken.
Difficulty breathing with bluish lips.
Rash with purple (blood-colored) spots or dots.
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
looks or acts very sick.
Any difficulty breathing.
Great difficulty swallowing fluids or saliva.
Child is confused or has stiff neck or bulging soft spot.
Had a seizure with a fever.
Age less than 12 weeks with fever above 100.4°F (38°C)
(Caution: do NOT give these babies any fever medicine before being seen.)
Fever above 104°F (40°C) at any age.
Very irritable (e.g., inconsolable crying or cries when touched
Won't move an arm or leg normally.
Signs of dehydration (very dry mouth, no urine in more than
8 hours, etc.).
Chronic disease or medication that causes decreased immunity.
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9am and 4pm)
your child needs to be seen.
Age 3-6 months with fever.
Age 6-24 months with fever present for more than 24 hours
but no other symptoms (e.g., no cold, cough, diarrhea, etc.).
Burning or pain with urination.
Fever lasts for more than 3 days (72 hours).
Call Your Doctor
During Weekday Office Hours If
other questions or concerns.
Parent Care at Home If
no other symptoms AND you don't think your child needs to be seen.
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR FEVER
- Reassurance: Your
child probably has an early virus infection. Most fevers are good for children
and help the body fight infection. Use the following definitions to help
put your child's level of fever into perspective:
- 100°-102°F (37.8° - 39°C)
low grade fevers and beneficial
- 102°-104°F (39 - 40°C) moderate grade fevers and beneficial
- Above 104°F (40°C) high fevers and cause discomfort, but harmless
- Above 105°F (40.6°C)
higher risk of bacterial infections
- Above 108°F (42.3°C)
the fever itself can be harmful
Treatment for All Fevers: Extra Fluids and Less Clothing
- Give cold fluids orally in unlimited amounts (reason: good hydration
replaces sweat and improves heat loss via skin).
- Dress in 1 layer of light weight clothing and sleep with 1 light
blanket (avoid bundling). (Caution: overheated infants can't undress themselves.)
- For fevers 100°-102°F (37.8° - 39°C), this is the only treatment
needed (fever medicines are unnecessary).
Fever Medicine: Give acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g.
Advil) for fevers above 102°F (39°C), if your child is uncomfortable. The
goal of fever therapy is to bring the temperature down to a comfortable level.
Remember, the fever medicine usually lowers the fever by 2° to 3°F. See the
- Avoid aspirin (reason: risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare but severe
Sponging: Sponge for fever above 104°F (40°C) that doesn't come down
with acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or ibuprofen AND causes discomfort.
How to sponge: Use lukewarm water (85°-90°F) (29.4° - 32.2°C).
(Do not use rubbing alcohol.)
Always give fever medicine first. Sponge for 20-30 minutes. If your
child shivers or becomes cold, stop sponging or increase the water temperature.
(NOTE: Sponging is optional for high fevers, not required.)
Contagiousness: Your child can return to day care or school
after the fever is gone.
Expected Course of Fever: Most fevers associated with
viral illnesses fluctuate between 101° and
104°F (38.4° and 40°C) and last for 2 or 3 days.
- Call Your Doctor If:
Fever goes above 104°F (40° C).
Fever without a cause persists for more than 24 hours. (if age
less than 2 years)
Any fever occurs if < 12 weeks old
Fever lasts for more than 3 days (72 hours).
Your child becomes worse or develops any of the "Call Your
This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical
advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full
responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Pediatric HouseCalls Online. Copyright © 2000-2004
Barton Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
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