Fever - How do I treat my child's fever and when should I be concerned?

Fever (temperature over 100.4°F or 38.0°C) is a symptom, not an illness. Most fevers are caused by a viral illness such as a "cold" or " flu". To measure temperature, use a digital thermometer in the rectum or under the arm or you may use an electronic ear thermometer.

Fevers of 100°F (37.8°C) to 104°F (40°C) are not unusual and are not harmful to a child. Fevers below 106°F (41.7°C) cause no harm. 5% of children under age 5 years (usually 3 months to 3 years and with family history) may develop a febrile convulsion. These are brief, and usually self-limited, lasting less than 5 minutes. Although frightening to parents, febrile convulsions are rarely dangerous.

Most children tolerate fevers of up to 102°F (38.9°C) quite well. If the child can be observed, fevers in this range do not need to be treated. If the fever is over 102°F (38.9°C) or if the child is uncomfortable, you can treat with acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tempra, etc.) according to the chart. Acetaminophen wears off after 4 hours, so the same dose will need to be repeated every 4 hours if the temperature is 102°F or greater. Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) may also be used to treat fevers in children older than six months, every 6 hours and is available also without prescription (See chart).

When to be concerned
A febrile child should be seen by a pediatrician if under 2 months of age, or if the child experiences any of the following; fever greater than 104°F (40°C), if neck is stiff, if fever present for over 24 – 48 hours, the child is very sick, or if the parents are very worried.