Fevers are common occurrences in children, typically indicated when their body temperature exceeds 100.4°F (38°C). While monitoring a fever, it’s essential to recognize associated symptoms and understand potential causes. This article will discuss fevers in children, including when to seek medical advice.

For expert guidance and care for your kids, consider reaching out to Pediatric Associates of Austin. Our doctors have the knowledge to provide your children with the quality care they deserve. Contact our office in Austin, Texas, today!

What is a Fever?

A fever in children occurs when their body temperature is 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. Different methods of measuring fever in children differ. The temperature readings that indicate a fever will differ according to the method.

A fever is part of your body’s response to fight infection.

What Symptoms May Indicate a Fever?

Apart from having a body temperature greater than 100.4 F (38C), your child may also display the following symptoms that could indicate they have a fever:

  • Fussiness, irritability, or quieter than normal
  • Elevated breathing or heart rate
  • Red or blushed skin
  • Chills or sweating
  • Headache
  • Seizures (called febrile seizures)

Causes of Fever in Children

A child’s fever will often be caused by an infection. It is one of the ways the body responds to invading pathogens.

There are also a few other factors that may lead to a fever in children. These could include:

  • Overdressing: Newborns who are overdressed, wrapped in a blanket, or in a hot environment may develop a fever. This is because they find it difficult to regulate their body temperature.
  • Immunizations: Some vaccinations may cause a slight fever that will usually pass within a day.
  • Teething: While teething can cause a slight increase in body temperature, it’s unlikely to be the sole cause if the temperature surpasses 100°F (37.8°C).

How to Measure Body Temperature

A digital thermometer is a reliable way to measure a child’s fever. The following methods can be used to measure their temperature depending on your child’s age.

  • Children 3 years old and younger: Rectal temperature. 100.4°F (38°C) or higher is a fever.
  • Children 4 years or older: Oral temperature. 100°F (37.8°C) or higher is a fever.
  • Any age: Under the armpit (99°F (37.2°C) is a fever ) or forehead (100.4°F (38°C) or higher is a fever). However, these readings are not as accurate. You can also measure in the ear (100.4°F (38°C) or higher is a fever) if your child from 6 months old.

How High is Too High?

Fever is generally not harmful unless it exceeds 105°F by 1-2 degrees. When the fever approaches 105°F and persists despite fever-reducing medication, it’s advisable to seek medical attention at the local children’s hospital.

It’s good to remember, though, that body temperature can fluctuate between day and night.

Should I Give My Child Medication?

You do not need to give your child any medication if they are drinking fluids well and do not have pain. If they are experiencing any of these difficulties, then you may give them acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) if they are over 6 months old. Always follow the instructions to find out how much and how often to give the medicine.

You should never give your child aspirin unless your doctor tells you to. Aspirin use in children has been linked to a rare but potentially fatal disease called Reye Syndrome. Also, if your child is younger than 3 months, you should only give medicine if instructed to do so by your doctor.

When You Should See a Doctor

If your child’s temperature reaches a certain level, you should take them to see the doctor. The temperature will depend on their age. You can use the following as a guide:

  • Less than 3 months old with a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher.
  • 3 months old or older with a temperature greater than 102.2°F (39°C).
  • Any age with health problems like cancer or sickle cell disease and has fever.

You may also call your doctor if your child:

  • Refuses fluids or appears too ill to drink
  • Experiences persistent diarrhea or vomiting
  • Shows signs of dehydration
  • Presents specific complaints (e.g., sore throat, earache)
  • Has a fever that persists after 2–3 days
  • Develops a rash or experiences pain while urinating

Seek emergency care if your child has:

  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Extreme irritability or fussiness
  • Lethargy or difficulty waking up
  • Developed a rash or purple spots
  • Bluish lips, tongue, or nails
  • Bulging or sunken soft spots in infants
  • Stiff neck
  • Severe headache
  • Limpness or refusal to move
  • Difficulty breathing is not relieved by clearing the nose
  • A seizure
  • Moderate to severe abdominal pain

How to Treat Fever

If your child is still playing, drinking normally, and pain-free, no treatment is necessary for a fever. Medication should only be given if the fever causes discomfort or affects their ability to drink. Keep an eye on your child, ensure they rest, and encourage them to drink extra fluids to prevent dehydration.

Your child’s body has several ways that it will try to maintain normal body temperature. It may increase or decrease sweat production, move blood closer or further from the surface of the skin, or you may move to a cooler or warmer environment.

You can help with the fever by also doing the following:

  • Offer plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration.
  • Administer acetaminophen or ibuprofen as per the doctor’s advice; avoid aspirin.
  • Avoid using rubbing alcohol or cold baths to reduce fever.
  • Dress your child lightly. Too many clothes will trap body heat.
  • Allow them to eat what they want, but don’t force it.
  • If vomiting or diarrhea occurs, consult the doctor regarding oral rehydration solutions.
  • Ensure your child gets sufficient rest.
  • Apply wet washcloths on areas with prominent blood vessels, such as the forehead or wrists.

Additional Information

Fevers are common among children. They usually resolve within a few days. Monitoring your child’s behavior can be as crucial as checking their temperature, especially for older babies and kids. Although it’s natural for children to feel irritable during fevers, if they have more serious symptoms, then you should seek medical attention.

If you’re unsure about how to proceed or have concerns about your child’s well-being, whether or not they have a fever, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor for guidance.

Schedule an Appointment Today

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