When to Worry About Your Child's Fever

FRIDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- A child with a fever is a major worry for many parents, but fever is just a natural part of many illnesses and can actually benefit your child, an expert says.

"My most frequent calls are from worried parents who want to know how high is too high of a fever. What many parents don't realize is that often, fevers are their child's friend," Dr. Hannah Chow-Johnson, a Loyola University Health System pediatrician and an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, said in a Loyola news release.

Fevers can make children unhappy and fussy, but also force them to slow down and to rest and sleep more, which will help them recover from their illness, she added.

"Fevers can actually help your child recover more quickly, especially if he or she is battling a viral illness," Chow-Johnson said. "I often wish thermometers had a gauge that read either 'fever' or 'no fever.' That would definitely help parents who worry if their child has a fever that's too high."

Parents need to understand that a fever is the body's way of controlling its immune response. Your child's body is controlling the temperature, which will fluctuate no matter what. Don't wake a child from a deep sleep to give medications for a fever, because sleep is more important, Chow-Johnson said.

When your child has a fever, take oral temperatures when possible and rectal ones when not, using a digital thermometer. Once a day is usually sufficient to check the temperature of a child with a fever.

There is generally no exact temperature that indicates you should take your child to the emergency room. As long as children are drinking, urinating and responding normally for being sick, you can monitor them at home, Chow-Johnson said.

Parents should focus on keeping the children comfortable, not reducing the fever. Give them lots of fluids, ice chips and popsicles, dress them in light clothing, and give them tepid baths to help them cool down.

Seek medical attention if:

  • A child less than 8 weeks old has a fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher.
  • A child who is undergoing chemotherapy or has a weakened immune system develops a fever.
  • There is no clear cause for the child's fever (no cough, runny nose or known pain) and the fever has lasted for two to three days.
  • A fever has lasted for more than five days, even if your child looks well.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Loyola University Health System, news release, Nov. 14, 2012