- Fever is the only symptom. Your child has a fever if:
- Rectal, Ear or Forehead temperature: 100.4° F (38.0° C) or higher
- Oral or Mouth temperature: 100° F (37.8° C) or higher
- Under the arm (Armpit) temperature: 99° F (37.2° C) or higher
- Caution: Ear temperatures are not accurate before 6 months of age
- Caution: Forehead temperatures must be digital. Forehead strips are not accurate.
- Main cause: colds and other viral infections.
- Fever may be the only symptom for the first 24 hours. This often occurs with a viral illness. The start of symptoms (runny nose, cough, loose stools) are often delayed. In the case of Roseola, fever may be the only symptom for 2 or 3 days.
- Most often, you won't know the cause of the fever until other symptoms develop. This may take 24 hours.
- Bacterial infections (as with a Strep throat or a kidney infection) also cause fever.
- Teething does not cause fever.
Fever and Crying
- Fever on its own shouldn't cause much crying.
- Frequent crying in a child with fever is caused by pain until proven otherwise.
- Hidden causes can be ear infections, kidney infections, sore throats and meningitis.
Normal Temperature Range
- Rectal. A reading of 98.6° F (37° C) is just the average rectal temp. A normal low can be 96.8° F (36° C) in the morning. It can change to a high of 100.3° F (37.9° C) late in the day. This is a normal range.
- By mouth. A reading of 97.6° F (36.5° C) is just the average mouth temp. A normal low can be 95.8° F (35.5° C) in the morning. It can change to a high of 99.9° F (37.7° C) late in the day. This is a normal range.
Return to School
- Your child can go back to school after the fever is gone. Your child should feel well enough to join in normal activities.
When to Call Us for Fever
Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If
Call Us Now (night or day) If
Call Us During Weekday Office Hours If
Parent Care at Home If
Treatment for All Fevers: Extra Fluids and Less Clothing
CARE ADVICE FOR FEVERWhat You Should Know:
- Having a fever means your child has an infection.
- It's most likely caused by a virus.
- Most fevers are good for sick children and help the body fight infection.
- Use the ranges below to help put your child's level of fever into perspective:
- 100°-102°F (37.8° - 39°C) Slight fever: helpful, good range
- 102°-104°F (39 - 40°C) Average fever: helpful
- Over 104°F (40°C) High fever: causes discomfort, but harmless
- Over 106°F (41.1°C) Very high fever: important to bring it down
- Over 108°F (42.3°C) Harmful fever: fever itself can cause brain damage
- Offer your child lots of cold fluids to drink. Reason: Good hydration replaces sweat. It also improves heat loss from the skin.
- For babies, dress in 1 layer of light weight clothing and sleep with 1 light blanket. Do not wrap in too many blankets. This may make the fever higher. Caution: Babies can get over heated easily. They can't take their clothes or blankets off if they are too hot.
- For fevers 100°-102° F (37.8° - 39°C), fever meds are rarely needed. Fevers of this level don't cause discomfort. They do help the body fight the infection.
- Fevers only need to be treated with medicine if they cause discomfort. Most often, that means fevers above 102°F (39°C).
- Give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil). See the Dose Tables.
- Goal of treatment: Bring the temperature down to a comfortable level. Most often, the fever meds only lower the fever by 2° to 3° F (1 - 1.5° C). They do not bring it down to normal.
- Do not use aspirin. Reason: Risk of Reye syndrome, a rare but serious brain disease.
- Do not use both acetaminophen and ibuprofen together. Reason: Not needed and a risk of giving too much.
- Note: Sponging is an option for high fevers, but not required.
- When to Use: Fever above 104° F (40° C) AND doesn't come down with fever meds. Always give the fever med first.
- How to Sponge: Use lukewarm water (85 - 90° F) (29.4 - 32.2° C). Sponge for 20-30 minutes.
- If your child shivers or becomes cold, stop sponging. Other option: You can also make the water warmer.
- Caution: Do not use rubbing alcohol. Reason: Can cause a coma.
- Your child can return to school after the fever is gone. Your child should feel well enough to join in normal activities.
- Most fevers with viral illnesses range between 101° and 104° F (38.4° and 40° C).
- They may last for 2 or 3 days.
- They are not harmful.
- Fever goes above 104° F (40° C)
- Any fever occurs if less than 12 weeks old
- Fever without a cause lasts more than 24 hours (if age less than 2 years)
- Fever lasts more than 3 days (72 hours)
- Your child becomes worse