A fever is an indication that your child has an infection, and it's the body's natural way of mounting an immune response to the infection. The average body temperature for children is 98.6 Fahrenheit. A fever is when the child's temperature is at or above 100.4 rectally. Oral (by mouth) and axillary (in the armpit) temperatures may read slightly lower than a rectal temperature. Do not feel your child's forehead to test for fever. Getting an accurate temperature is important in order to determine if they indeed have a fever, and how high it is, and this is important information to communicate to your doctor. We recommend using a digital thermometer. Pacifier thermometers, ear thermometers and the type that uses plastic strips are not accurate. For children under 1 year of age, it is best to check your child's temperature rectally. For children ages 1-3 yrs, you may check a rectal or axillary temperature. For children over 3-4 yrs of age, you can check an axillary or oral temperature.
If your baby is under 2 months of age, a fever is an emergency. These young babies are still developing their immune system, and they have not been vaccinated yet against many serious infections. You should not give any fever reducer, and you should call the office or speak to the doctor on call immediately. They will direct you to go to the emergency room at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
If your child's temperature is less than 101 and they are well-appearing, you can observe them and don't need to treat the temperature. If the temperature is greater than 101, they may start to feel uncomfortable and develop chills. You may offer them a fever reducer, either Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), to help them feel more comfortable. Children should not receive Ibuprofen if they are less than 6 months of age. They should never be given Aspirin, as this can be very dangerous for a child with certain infections.
If your child has a higher fever, try to undress them as much as possible to cool down. Overdressing your child keeps them warm, and makes it more difficult to reduce their temperature. You may give your child a sponge bath with lukewarm (not cold) water. Do not place them in a cold bath. Never use rubbing alcohol on their skin for a fever.
It is important to watch for other symptoms, such as signs of a cold, a cough, vomiting, diarrhea, change in urination, ear pain, or a rash. There are some signs along with fever that may indicate a more serious infection, and if seen should be reported to your doctor immediately. These include the following:
1) Severe headache and stiff neck
2) Persistent irritability or inconsolable crying
3) Fever with a rash, or a rash that looks like "blood red" dots or purple spots
4) Fast or labored breathing that doesn't resolve promptly after temperature comes down
5) Signs of dehydration, such as poor urine output, lethargy, and an inability to keep fluids down
6) Any child that appears lethargic, is hard to arouse, or is ill-appearing
7) Fever that doesn't improve (decrease by at least 1-2 degrees) after an appropriate dose of fever reducer given (Insert link to dosing for them here)
8) Your child hasn't been vaccinated, or their immune system is compromised due to a medical condition
9) Any seizure activity that occurs with a fever