What temperature is considered a fever in children?

A cold here, the flu there – for parents, some years can bring a slew of consecutive illnesses. With coughs that can be considered “normal” lasting up to six weeks, as well as multiple ear infections, visits to the doctor can be frequent for children.

In the winter months, when children are in close contact with others, diseases spread quickly and can appear without much warning. Maybe you have a healthy toddler in the morning only to wake up in the middle of the night with that dreaded deep cough. Body temperature can rise for a variety of reasons, including wearing too many layers or even teething, so it’s important to know what temperature is considered a fever in children.

Children begin to catch colds around 6 months of age when their immunity begins to shift from their mother’s immunity to developing their own. The number of illnesses can be overwhelming for parents. On average, the University of Utah Health says healthy babies, toddlers, and preschoolers can get seven or eight colds a year. Elementary school age children average five to six per year, while teens can catch up to four. And that’s just a cold. Gastrointestinal problems can also occur. It is challenging because children everywhere are exposed to new viruses.

When children get a fever, it adds a concern. While this is the body’s natural response in fighting infection, it can be difficult to know when to go to the doctor or ER.


What temperature is considered a fever?

Dr. Emily Wisniewski, a board-certified pediatrician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, told parents that all babies under two months old with a fever should be seen by a doctor.

“Fever in this age group can be a sign of a serious infection and should be seen immediately in the emergency department,” she said. “The visit may include blood, urine, spinal fluid, virus testing, X-rays and hospitalization. It’s important not to give these babies any drugs.”

When children get a fever, it adds a concern. While this is the body’s natural response in fighting infection, it can be difficult to know when to go to the doctor or ER.


How do you know if your baby has a fever?

Because babies can’t verbally tell us they’re feeling sick, caregivers can look for signs that a temperature should be taken. Symptoms such as constant crying, unusual drowsiness, diarrhea or vomiting can raise a red flag. Usually, a reading over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is considered a fever in babies, but this may depend on how it is measured.

As children get older, it can be easier to know when something is wrong. After the age of 4, most children can hold a thermometer under their tongue.

If your child is less than 3 months old and has a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, contact a doctor immediately. If it’s during regular business hours, your pediatrician’s office can advise and help you schedule an appointment. Even if it’s after hours, the office can connect you to the doctor on call who can guide you on the best next steps.

Father holding newborn baby

How to calm your child’s fever

Giving your child medicine will not speed up the healing process, but it can put the child more at ease. For children 6 months or older who are still playing, sleeping and drinking well, it may not be necessary to treat the fever, according to Mayo Clinic. However, if you want to go on medication, they recommend using paracetamol for children between 3 and 6 months. Consult your pediatrician first if your baby is less than 3 months old.

Children 6 months and older can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen, such as Children’s Advil. Consult your pediatrician first to determine the dosage for young babies, as the amount varies based on age and weight. If the child is over 2 years old and you know the weight, you should be fine to follow the instructions on the box.

Dress your child in light clothes and offer fluids to keep them hydrated. Lukewarm baths can also be helpful. Just know that if the water is too cold, they may shiver, which will backfire.

Boy with a fever who has taken a temperature

When to call the healthcare provider

If nothing seems to calm your baby, or if your child is only a few months old with a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, seek medical attention.

For children under 2 years of age with a fever that lasts more than a day, a call to the doctor is in order. Likewise, if they are older than 2 and have a fever for more than 3 days, do the same.

Fever can sometimes cause febrile seizures that can occur in children between 6 months and 5 years old, but children usually outgrow them, according to Stanford Medicine. These attacks often occur at the first onset of the fever, last a few seconds to 15 minutes, and can cause the child to shake and lose consciousness. Even if it only takes a few seconds, it’s important to take your child in for evaluation. If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes, go to the emergency room. Usually there are no negative lasting effects and their occurrence is not indicative of epilepsy.

Now that you know what temperature is considered a fever in children of different ages, you can know if medical attention is needed.

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