How to Treat a Child’s Fever and When to Call a Doctor
Facts About Fever
Fever is your body’s way to fight infection – it is a normal response and signals that the immune system is reacting appropriately to infection. Sometimes, fever can signal a more serious medical situation and should be evaluated if there are other symptoms like decreased consciousness, severe headache, persistent vomiting or abdominal pain and rash.
For babies less than 15 months old – take the temperature in the rectum. Other methods are not always accurate in small infants.
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/fever/Pages/How-to-Take-a-Childs-Temperature.aspx – how to take temperatures correctly
Should I Treat My Child’s Fever?
Your child’s doctor will talk with you about specific care for your child. In general, not all fevers need to be treated. Some important reasons to treat a fever include if your child:
- Is not comfortable when the fever is high
- Sometimes has a seizure (convulsions) when he has a fever
- Will not drink enough fluids when fever is high
How Do I Treat a Fever?
Your child’s doctor will talk with you about specific care for your child. Some general guidelines to follow include:
- Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) Follow the dosage charts carefully or ask your child’s doctor how much medicine to give. This is often the only medicine a child needs to feel better. (NOTE: It may take 60 to 90 minutes for these medicines to work.) Do not give your child more than 5 doses of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period.
- If you give your child the correct dose of acetaminophen every four hours and he is still not comfortable, give him ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) every six hours. If your child has chickenpox, asthma, kidney problems or bleeding problems ask his doctor how much medicine to give. Follow the dosage charts carefully or ask your child’s doctor how much medicine to give. Do not use ibuprofen for babies less than 6 months of age. If you are giving both acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin), the child should be alternating the medications every 3 hours so both medications are given at 6 hour intervals.
- Dress your child very lightly (do not bundle or cover with a blanket).
- Give him lots of cool liquids.
- If all these steps fail to lower the fever and your child is not comfortable, you may give him a sponge bath in lukewarm water. Do not add alcohol to the sponge bath.
- Do not give any aspirin.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your child’s doctor right away if your child has one or more of the following symptoms:
- The baby is less than 3 months old
- He does not smile or play for even a few minutes every 4 hours
- There are signs of dehydration:
- No urine in six to eight hours in an infant younger than 1 year old
- No urine in more than eight hours in a child older than 1 year old
- No tears when crying
- Sunken eyes
- Dry lips and mouth
- He starts vomiting
- He is not comfortable, even when held and the fever has come down
- He seems to be breathing hard
- He develops a rash
- The fever lasts more than threes days
- He complains of any persistent pain such as earache, pain with voiding or stomach pain
- For a baby 3-15 months old with a fever more than 103.5 F (rectally) who has not yet been checked by a doctor
Check with your child’s doctor about when to call for a fever if your child has a chronic medical condition (ie. asthma, UTI, immune deficiency or cancer).