Your Childs Fever A Body Response
Fever is one way the body fights an infection, but a slight rise in temperature does not always mean your child is sick. It is normal for your child's temperature to change by time of day or activity. How your child feels and acts is what matters when your child has a fever. Some younger children may have high fevers [up to 104°F (40°C) or higher] but may not have a serious infection, while others may have a low fever but may be sicker. This handout will help you know what to do if your child has a fever. It will discuss common causes of fever, the signs of fever, what to do at home to treat a fever, and some signs of when to call your clinic.
What is a “normal temperature”?
There is not one precise temperature for each child. A common thought is that the normal body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C) and any temperature above this would be a fever. This is not correct. Normal body temperatures vary. A child's normal range is 96°F to 100°F (35.6°C to 37.8°C).
What is a fever?
A fever is a temperature above 102°F (38.9°C) by rectum, 101°F (38.3°C) by ear or mouth or 100°F (37.8°C) under the arm.
Common Causes of Fever
A fever can be caused by the body's response to illness. Fevers help produce a protein which helps the body fight against infection. However, a fever can be from things other than an infection. For instance, inflammation, immunizations, high temperature (outdoors or in), too many clothes, or heavy activity can all cause fever.
Signs of Fever
- hot, dry skin
- flushed face
- sleepy, fatigue
- decreased hunger
If you notice any of these signs, take your child's temperature. Rectal temperatures are the most accurate. If you are not sure how to take a temperature, call your clinic to discuss your child's symptoms.
Common Misconceptions About Fever
- High fevers cause brain damage
(Not true/unless temperature reaches at least 107°F, which is very rare).
- High fever causes seizures
(Not true: a rapid rise in temperature may lead to a seizure, but this is often short and hard to prevent and, even if it occurs, it does not usually cause brain damage).
- All fevers must be treated
(Not true: fever may help the body fight infections. We treat fevers in children only for the comfort).
Treating a Fever at Home
- Keep your child cool, lightly clothed, not covered with blankets (a single sheet is best).
- Be sure your home is not overheated (not warmer than 68-70°F).
- Offer your child lots of cool liquids; water, juice, soda, popsicles. These will help cool your child and replace fluid loss.
- Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) for temperatures greater than 102°F (38.9°C) if there is discomfort.
- You may sponge or tub bathe your child for 20-30 minutes in lukewarm water if the temperature is over 104°F (40°C). Stop if the child shivers or protests.
Do Not Use:
- Rubbing alcohol: it may be absorbed through the skin or lungs and cause problems.
- Ice water: it causes shivers and prevents heat loss.
When to Call Your Clinic
- If your child is under 6 months old and has a fever.
- If the fever lasts more than 48 hours.
- If your child has a fever plus a sore throat, earache, rash, stiff neck, severe cough, or has any other pain.
- If your child starts to vomit or have diarrhea- especially an infant.
- If your child seems very ill (not alert, very quiet, tired and crabby).
If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s fever, please call:
UW Health Clinic_________________
Phone Number :Monday-Friday 8:00am-4:30_____________
After Hours and Weekends: 608-262-0486 and ask for _________________.
Toll free: 1-800-323-8942
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 08/22/2012
Copyright © 08/22/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4221
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