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Fever (Paediatric)

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Sep.19.2023
Fever, Pediatric

Fever, Pediatric

A person putting a thermometer in a child's mouth to take their temperature.

A person holding a forehead thermometer to a baby's head.

A fever is a high body temperature that is 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. In children older than 3 months, a brief mild or moderate fever generally has no lasting effects, and it often does not need treatment. In children younger than 3 months, a fever may be a sign of a serious problem.

High fevers in babies and toddlers can sometimes lead to a seizure (febrile seizure). Fevers can also cause dehydration because the body may sweat, especially if the fever keeps coming back or lasts a long time.

You can use a thermometer to check for a fever. Body temperature can change with:
  • Age.
  • Time of day.
  • Where the temperature is taken, such as in the mouth, rectum, ear, under the arm, or on the forehead. A reading from the rectum gives the most correct reading.

Follow these instructions at home:

Medicines

  • Give over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your child's health care provider. Follow instructions on how much medicine to give and how often.
  • Do not give your child aspirin because of the link to Reye's syndrome.
  • If your child was prescribed antibiotics, give them as told by the provider. Do not stop giving the antibiotic even if your child starts to feel better.

If your child has a seizure:

  • Keep your child safe. Do not hold them down during a seizure.
  • Place your child on their side or stomach to help prevent choking.
  • Gently remove any objects from your child's mouth, if you can. Do not put anything in their mouth during a seizure.

General instructions

  • Watch for any changes in your child's symptoms. Let your child's provider know about them.
  • Have your child rest as needed.
  • Give your child enough fluid to keep their pee (urine) pale yellow. This helps to prevent dehydration.
  • Bathe or sponge bathe your child with room-temperature water as needed. This may help lower the body temperature. Do not use cold water or do this if it makes your child more fussy or uncomfortable.
  • Do not cover your child in too many blankets or heavy clothes.
  • Keep your child home from school or day care until at least 24 hours after the fever is gone. The fever should be gone without having to use medicines. Your child should only leave the house to get medical care, if needed.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your child vomits or has diarrhea.
  • Your child has pain when peeing (urinating).
  • Your child's symptoms do not get better with treatment.
  • Your child is 1 year old or older and has signs of dehydration. These may include:
    • No pee in 8–12 hours.
    • Cracked lips or dry mouth.
    • Not making tears while crying.
    • Sunken eyes.
    • Sleepiness.
    • Weakness.
  • Your child is 1 year old or younger, and you notice signs of dehydration. These may include:
    • A sunken soft spot (fontanel) on their head.
    • No wet diapers in 6 hours.
    • More fussiness.

Get help right away if:

  • Your child is younger than 3 months and has a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher.
  • Your child is 3 months to 3 years old and has a temperature of 102.2°F (39°C) or higher.
  • Your child gets limp or floppy.
  • Your child is short of breath.
  • Your child is making high-pitched whistling sounds most often when breathing out (wheezing).
  • Your child has a febrile seizure.
  • Your child is dizzy or faints.
  • Your child has any of the following:
    • A rash, stiff neck, or severe headache.
    • Severe pain in the abdomen.
    • Vomiting and diarrhea that does not go away or is severe.
    • A severe or wet (productive) cough.

These symptoms may be an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get help right away. Call 911.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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