Management of Fever in Children
Fever is a rise in core body temperature above the body’s normal set point. Normal body temperature is between 97.5° – 99.5° F. Fever is a temperature of 100.4° F or above.
What causes a fever?
There are various causes for a child to have a rise in temperature. Fever generally occurs in response to an infection, cancer, drug or toxin, autoimmune processes and even allergic reactions can cause a low grade fever. Hyperthermia, or overheating, can be caused by strenuous exercise or environmental exposure.
The hypothalamus regulates your body’s core temperature. During an infection your hypothalamus resets the body’s normal set point. This is why traditional cooling efforts are ineffective.
Treatment of fever
Fever is a very normal response to infection. How high your child’s fever is and how it responds to medication is not a good indicator of the severity of the illness.
Fever can be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, (product names Tylenol and Motrin). Fever should not be treated with cold baths or alcohol baths. Both can be dangerous and are ineffective in reducing fever. Bathing the child using the temperature normally used for their bath is effective. Cooling efforts such as wearing light clothing and reducing air temperature may help provide comfort. These will however be more effective if used after medication is given.
When should I call my doctor?
Call your doctor immediately if:
- Your child is younger than 3 months
- Your child has a fever above 104°F
- Your child looks or acts extremely ill
- Your child has had a seizure
- Your child has had a fever for more than 3 days
- Your child has accompanying symptoms that may indicate a bacterial infection such as earache, stiff neck, headache, or sore throat