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Fevers, When Do I Worry?


A fever is usually caused by infections from viruses (such as a cold or the flu) or bacteria (such as strep throat or some ear infections). The fever itself is not the disease, only a sign that the body’s defenses are trying to fight an infection. Keeping Fever at Bay Although not every fever needs to be treated, there are some things you can do to help make your child more comfortable.

  • Giving a child acetaminophen or ibuprofen will usually reduce a fever. It is important to make sure you give the right dose to your child.

  • If your child is under two years of age, contact your pediatrician or pharmacist for the correct dose. For older children, follow the recommended dose on the label.

  • Do not overdress your child. Other practices to reduce fevers such as an alcohol bath, ice packs, etc. are no longer recommended and can actually have adverse effects on your child.

  • A fever will also cause a child to lose fluids more quickly, so offer plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Signs of dehydration include crying without tears, a dry mouth, and fewer wet diapers.

  • Keep your digital thermometer ready and accessible so you don't have to search for it once your child is ill.

  • Have children's acetaminophen or ibuprofen on hand.

  • Make sure your pediatrician's phone number is handy.

When to Call the Doctor Call your child's doctor right away if your child has a fever and:

  • Looks very ill, is unusually drowsy, or is very fussy

  • Has been in a very hot place, such as an overheated car

  • Has other symptoms, such as a stiff neck, severe headache, severe sore throat, severe ear pain, an unexplained rash, or repeated vomiting or diarrhea

  • Has signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth, sunken soft spot or significantly fewer wet diapers and is not able to take in fluids

  • Has immune system problems, such as sickle cell disease or cancer, or is taking steroids

  • Has had a seizure

  • Is younger than 3 months (12 weeks) and has a temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

  • Fever rises above 104°F (40°C) repeatedly for a child of any age

Also call your child's doctor if:

  • Your child still "acts sick" once his fever is brought down.

  • Your child seems to be getting worse.

  • The fever persists for more than 24 hours in a child younger than 2 years.

  • The fever persists for more than 3 days (72 hours) in a child 2 years of age or older.

A Handy Dosing Guide to have at home:




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