Fact: Fever is one of the most ‘controversial’ health concerns parents deal with. Should you call the doctor or not? How high is too high? How long should it take for a fever to ‘run its course’? What should you do when your child has a fever?
Fact: A fever is our body’s way of fighting off bacterial and viral infections. In and of itself, this isn’t a bad thing-as long as the body doesn’t have to fight too long or too hard.
What’s even more confusing is the fact that there is no one definitive answer to any of these questions. The answers depend on your child’s age, other symptoms present (or not) and the length of time the fever lasts. So let’s take a look at the various ages and stages in your child’s life and how fever should be handled in each one.
A fever of anything above 99 degrees F merits a trip to the doctor (or at least a phone call) if your infant is 6 months of age or younger. If the fever is accompanied by any of the following, seek immediate medical attention: vomiting, diarrhea, rash, lethargy or skin tone changes, difficulty breathing or if your child seems to be in pain (especially in the neck area).
Babies over 6 months
Babies ranging in age 6 months to a year should be seen by a doctor if a) their temperature persists for more than 24 hours and/or if it is accompanied by any of the other symptoms listed above.
Some will argue that fevers aren’t a part of teething, but any mother who has gone through teething with a child will tell you that a low-grade fever often does go along with teeth breaking through the gums.
One to two year olds
Once your baby becomes a toddler, a fever of less than 102 F that can be controlled by OTC fever reducers for infants and/or other home remedies listed below doesn’t need a doctor’s attention. If, however, the fever continues to climb over 102 F, cannot be controlled by medications or other methods, persists for more than 48 hours OR is accompanied by any of the other symptoms mentioned previously, a trip to the doctor is necessary.
- Keep your child hydrated with clear liquids or diluted fruit juice. Infants 6 months and under should be fed more frequently, giving them small amounts at a time.
- Dress your child in lightweight clothing and use a sheet or light blanket to cover them. Do NOT try to sweat out a fever under heavy blankets. Bundling your child will raise their body heat even more. If the fever is accompanied by chills, blankets are fine. But as soon as they are warm, reduce the amount of coverings on them.
- OTC medications formulated for children. Follow dosage instructions carefully. Never over-medicate.
Age 2 and older
Children age 2 and over who run a fever of 102 F or less should be treated for 72 hours with OTC medications, made to get plenty of rest and fluids in order to let the body fight off the infection.
If the fever persists of longer than 72 hours or is accompanied by any of the other symptoms listed previously (under ‘infants’), seek medical attention.
You know your child better than anyone. You will be able to discern when they are feeling a bit under the weather vs. something more serious. Don’t be afraid of seeming paranoid or overly-concerned-especially if you are a new mom. When it comes to your baby, you should always choose to be ‘safe rather than sorry’.