close up of toddler boy's face

Childhood Fevers

What is a fever?

Fever is determined by a rectal temperature over 100.4 F or 38.0 C and is one of the most common reasons for child emergency rooms visits.  Fever in a child may indicate serious illness, but more commonly fever is caused by infections that are easily treated.  If a fever is extremely and persistently high (greater than 107 F, 41.6 C) the effects can be serious and life threatening and a child should receive medical attention immediately.

A child’s temperature can be taken three ways:

  • Oral: in the mouth and under the tongue
  • Axillary: under the armpit
  • Rectal: in the anus

What causes a fever?

Though infection is a common cause, there are other factors that may cause fever.  Some instances that may cause your child to have a temperature of 101 F (38.3 C) are:

  • Being overdressed
  • Lack of proper hydration
  • Illness related to heat exposure
  • Being extremely active
  • Bacterial infections
  • Viruses
  • Reaction to medications

What are signs of a fever?

  • Irritability and fussiness
  • Lethargy
  • Skin is warm or hot to the touch
  • Change in appetite
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Seizures

If my child has a fever, when should I seek medical care?

You should call your child’s pediatrician if any of the following are present with fever:

  • Your child is younger than 6 months of age (regardless of prematurity).
  • The fever is unable to be controlled.
  • You suspect dehydration from vomiting, diarrhea or refusal to drink.
  • You have already visited the doctor and your child is now getting worse or has new symptoms.

When caring for a child with a fever, what are some of the best methods to soothe discomfort?

Reviewed by Melissa Hendrickson, RN and Director of Health Services at Penfield Children’s Center.

Ferry, Robert Jr., MD. “Fever in Children.” emedicinehealth. <http://www.emedicinehealth.com/fever_in_children/article_em.htm#fever_in_children_overview>

http://www.chw.org/applications/TeachingSheets/1313EN.pdf

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