What Does a Fever in Children Mean With No Other Symptoms?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

My six-year-old son ran a fever for two days with no other symptoms except for a very mild headache and a little fatigue. The fevers ranged from 99.6 degrees up to 102.3 degrees. Is it possible for a virus to present itself this way, with fever only? Anytime my children run isolated fevers (no other overt symptoms), I guess I automatically think leukemia, so I need to be a bit more educated. I always feel better if they at least say their throat or their ears hurt.

Doctor's response

Probably the #1 presentation for a "run of the mill" viral illness in your child's age range is an undulating, low-grade fever for 2-3 days.

As you point out often no other symptoms may be present. Two things may happen:

  1. The child gets over the fever and develops no further symptoms and has recovered, or
  2. the child resolves the fever but other symptoms (eg. runny nose and cough) develop which indicate the immune system loss the battle with that specific virus which has now localized to a particular region of the child's body.

Generally, in your child's age range, after 48-72 hours of fever you should contact your doctor's office and review the situation.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018
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