If you child has a high fever, it can obviously be cause for concern. But remember, fever is a defense against infection. Your child’s body is raising its temperature to kill the germs. In most cases it’s harmless and goes away on its own in 3 days.
What You Should Do
Acetaminophen can lower your child’s temperature. If they’re older than 2, the dose will be listed on the label. If they’re younger, ask your doctor how much to give them.
If your child is at least 6 months old, ibuprofen is also an option.
Other things to remember:
- Put a cool compress on their head and keep their room at a moderate temperature — not too hot and not too cold.
- Cool them off with a lukewarm sponge bath.
- Get them to drink lots of liquids.
- Dress them in light clothing.
- Rest — in most cases, you shouldn’t wake a sleeping child to give them fever medicine.
- Patience — typically, a fever will go away on its own in 2 or 3 days.
- And remember if a fever persists or reaches 104 degrees, it’s time to call the doctor.
What You Shouldn’t Do
Never give your child aspirin. It can cause a serious condition called Reye’s syndrome.
Avoid combination cold and flu remedies in young kids. They shouldn’t be used in children under age 4. In older kids, it’s unclear how well they work.
If you decide to use a cold medicine, check with your pediatrician to be sure your child is old enough for the type of medicine you’re considering. According to the FDA, no child under the age of 2 should be given any kind of cough or cold product that contains a decongestant or antihistamine, and caution should be used even in children who are older than 2. In addition, no child under 4 years of age should be given a product that combines cough and cold medicines. The possible side-effects can be serious and even life-threatening.
If your doctor says it’s OK to use a cough or cold medicine, then read the label before you buy and pick the one that most closely matches your child’s symptoms. Don’t switch back and forth between different medications without your pediatrician’s OK.
Don’t use an icy cold bath or rub your child’s skin with alcohol. Either can actually drive a fever up.
And even if your child has the chills, don’t bundle them up with thick blankets or clothes.
When Should You Call the Doctor?
Usually, you don’t need to take your sick child to the doctor. But sometimes fever can be a serious warning sign. Call your pediatrician if your child:
- Has a temperature of 104 F or higher
- Is under 3 months old and has a temperature of 100.4 F or higher
- Has a fever that lasts for more than 72 hours (or more than 24 hours if your child is under age 2)
- Has a fever along with other symptoms such as a stiff neck, extremely sore throat, ear pain, rash, or severe headache
- Has a seizure
- Seems very sick, upset, or unresponsive