Your Child Has a Fever: When Should You Worry?

It's That Time of Year When to Worry About Your Kids' Sniffles, Sore Throats, and Fevers

When should your child see a doctor for a fever?

News Picture: Your Child Has a Fever: When Is It Time to See a Doctor?

It’s that time of year when your kids come home with sniffles and sore throats, but when should you worry if they have a fever? Fevers are not always cause for concern and can actually help the immune system fight off infections, according to Dr. Christopher Tolcher, a pediatrician with Agoura-West Valley Pediatrics. In fact, fevers are almost never dangerous and it is extremely rare for a fever to cause tissue damage unless it reaches 107 degrees.

But what about when a fever becomes a medical emergency? Here are some guidelines to help you determine when to seek medical attention for your child:

Q&A: What are the signs that my child’s fever requires immediate medical attention?

If your child’s fever lasts more than four to five days, if they are a newborn younger than 2 months old with a fever over 100.4 degrees, if the fever reaches 105 degrees or higher at any age, including teenagers, or if an infant under 1 year old has a fever over 102 for more than two days, it is important to call your child’s doctor right away.

Q&A: What are the warning signs that my child’s fever is an emergency?

Certain symptoms accompanying a fever may indicate an emergency situation. If your child has a widespread, red or purple rash, a stiff neck and severe headache, severe pain or abdominal pain, shortness of breath, extreme weakness or an altered mental state, dehydration (dry diapers, decreased urination, dark urine), or seizures, you should call your child’s doctor right away or go to the emergency department.

It’s important to note that children under 5 can sometimes have a seizure during a fever, and while it may be scary to witness, most of the time it does not require a trip to the ER. If the seizure lasts less than two minutes, contact your doctor. If it lasts more than four to five minutes, call 911.

Q&A: How can I make my child comfortable while they have a fever?

If your child has a fever that can be treated at home, there are some steps you can take to make them more comfortable. Focus on how your child is feeling rather than just the number on the thermometer. If your child is experiencing a headache or earache, you can give them a pain reliever if their fever is around 100.5 degrees. However, if their fever is around 104 degrees and they are not feeling too bad, simply provide them with fluids and keep them comfortable.

It is also important to avoid overdressing your child and using heavy blankets, as this can raise their fever even higher. Lightweight pajamas and light blankets are sufficient.

Q&A: How can I prevent dehydration in my child with a fever?

When a child has a fever, their body burns through water faster, which can lead to dehydration. To prevent this, make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids. If you notice that their urine is dark or they are not urinating as often as normal, offer them more fluids such as water, clear soups, electrolyte solutions, or popsicles.

Q&A: Can I aggressively lower my child’s fever?

While it may be tempting to aggressively lower your child’s fever, doing so can actually slow down their immune response to infection, according to Dr. Tolcher. If your child has a fever of 104 degrees and is experiencing body aches, giving them one medication to bring it down a couple of degrees is enough. The goal is to make the child more comfortable while their body fights off the infection.

Don’t panic if your child has a fever. Resting is an important part of the healing process, and fever helps to slow us down and allow our bodies to recover.

Remember, if you have any concerns about your child’s fever, it’s always best to consult with their doctor. Trust your instincts as a parent and seek medical attention when necessary.

Now, go give your little one a big hug, because they need love and care to get through their fever.


References:

  • Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles, news release, Dec. 2023. Source
  • Mayo Clinic. “Fever: First aid”. Link
  • WebMD. “Fever in Children”. Link
  • CDC. “When to Use Medicines to Lower Fever in Children”. Link
  • MedlinePlus. “Fever in Children”. Link

Have you ever had to deal with your child’s fever? How did you handle it? Share your stories and tips with us in the comments below! And don’t forget to share this article with other parents who might find it helpful.