Centra Care docs have been getting a lot of questions lately about fevers. Do they mean something bad? When do you see a doctor? What’s the magic number?
Fever is a part of the body’s defense against infection. Anything over 100.4 degrees is generally considered fever.
Almost any infection can cause a fever, but that doesn’t usually mean you or your child has a serious problem. If the fever is mild and you have no other problems, you do not need treatment. Drink fluids and rest. With a fever, you always need to pay attention to the other signs and symptoms you’re having — the infection is what needs treated, not necessarily the fever.
The illness is probably not serious if your child:
- Is still interested in playing
- Is eating and drinking well
- Is alert and smiling at you
- Has a normal skin color
- Looks well when their temperature comes down
Take steps to lower a fever if you or your child is uncomfortable or not sleeping well. When trying to lower a fever, remember:
- Do NOT bundle up someone who has the chills.
- Remove excess clothing or blankets. The room should be comfortable, not too hot or cool. Try one layer of lightweight clothing, and one lightweight blanket for sleep.
- A lukewarm bath or sponge bath may help cool someone with a fever. This is especially effective after medication is given — otherwise the temperature might bounce right back up.
- Do NOT use cold baths, ice, or alcohol rubs. These cool the skin, but often make the situation worse by causing shivering, which raises the core body temperature.
Here are some guidelines for taking medicine to lower a fever:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) help reduce fever in children and adults.
- Take acetaminophen every 4 – 6 hours.
- Take ibuprofen every 6 – 8 hours. DO NOT use ibuprofen in children younger than 6 months old.
- Aspirin is very effective for treating fever in adults. DO NOT give aspirin to a child unless your child’s doctor tells you to.
- Know how much you or your child weighs, and then always check the instructions on the package.
- In children under age 3 months, call your doctor before giving any medication.
Eating and drinking with a fever:
- Everyone should drink plenty of fluids. Water, popsicles, soup, and gelatin are all good choices.
- Do not give too much fruit or apple juice and avoid sports drinks in younger children.
- Although eating foods with a fever is fine, do not force foods.
Call a doctor right away if your child:
- Is younger than 3 months old and has a temperature of 100.4 °F or higher
- Is 3 -12 months old and has a fever of 102.2 °F or higher
- Is under age 2 and has a fever that lasts longer than 24 – 48 hours
- Is older and has a fever for longer than 48 – 72 hours
- Has a fever over 105 °F, unless it comes down readily with treatment and the person is comfortable
- Has other symptoms that suggest an illness may need to be treated, such as a sore throat, earache, or cough
- Has been having fevers come and go for up to a week or more, even if they are not very high
- Has a serious medical illness, such as a heart problem, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, or cystic fibrosis
- Recently had an immunization
- Has a new rash or bruises appear
- Has pain with urination
- Has trouble with the immune system
- Has recently traveled to a third world country
- Source: National Institutes of Health