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What to Know When Your Child Has a Fever

Every parent has experienced the surprising turn of health from his or her child being fine one minute and then showing a fever the next. Keeping track of your kids’ health can be a full-time job. It’s more than a little confusing trying to decide when to wait and go to the doctor the next day, and when to go to the ER.

How serious is a fever in a child? Advance ER physician Dr. Joseph Meier says, “Fever in children indicates the body is busy fighting something off. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. When it becomes worrisome is when it lasts and lasts, when the child is showing other symptoms, when it is over 103°, or when it is an infant.”

Typical Symptoms Accompanying a Fever1 –

  • Fever
  • Chills or sweating
  • Shivering
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Earache

Warning Signs Accompanying a Fever – go to the ER as soon as possible –

  • Listlessness
  • Poor eye contact
  • Confusion or lack of responsiveness
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting repeatedly
  • Immovable, stiff neck
  • Pain when urinating
  • Difficulty breathing – blue fingernails or lips
  • Abdominal pain
  • Seizure
  • Inconsolable crying
  • Difficulty waking
  • Purple bruising
  • Rash that doesn’t lighten when you push it

Fever By the Numbers2:

  1. Babies:
  • Newborn–3 months – 100.4° or more, rectally – Call the doctor
  • 3–6 months – 102° or more, rectally – Call the doctor
  • 6–24 months – 102° or more, rectally – Call the doctor; get instructions for giving liquid acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc.); never give aspirin.

“It’s important to receive prompt medical attention whenever your infant or baby is showing a fever or signs of illness,” said Dr. Meier. “It may be a condition that we can catch early and treat before it becomes worse, such as an ear infection or, possibly, the beginning of something more serious.”

  1. Children:
  • 2–17 years – up to 102° – Medication isn’t always needed; call the doctor if unusual discomfort, irritability or lethargy accompanies fever
  • 2–17 years – 102° or more – if needed, give acetaminophen by following directions carefully and not giving with other meds that also contain acetaminophen; never give aspirin; call the doctor.

“It’s a good idea to treat the child more than the numbers. If you see something is not quite right with your child, then get medical attention immediately, regardless of the temperature reading,” said Dr. Meier.

The Basics:

  • Have a reliable thermometer on hand. If you have an infant, consider having two – one for oral and one for rectal – and clearly mark them. The most accurate readings come from rectal or forehead/ear thermometers.
  • Keep electrolyte drinks on hand that have no added artificial ingredients. Keep encouraging fluids by offering a variety of drinks.
  • Keep child quiet and resting.
  • A lukewarm bath is ok to try to bring a high fever down a little, but do not give cold baths, ice packs or alcohol rubs.

ER Open 24/7 Every Day

If it’s time to take the baby or child to the doctor, Advance ER has two convenient locations in Park Cities and Galleria Area. A board-certified physician, experienced with infants and children, will be waiting to help you. In-house imaging equipment, IVs, labs and pharmaceuticals are all available to help your child start to feel better again.

“Our physicians have many years of experience, so don’t hesitate to come in if you feel there is something wrong with your child or baby,” said Dr. Meier. “We’re here to help.”

1 Mayo Clinic on symptoms of fevers

2 Mayo Clinic guidelines for fevers

* The information and opinions stated here are intended to address frequently asked questions regarding common symptoms and are not designed to constitute medical advice or recommendations as to any disease, ailment, or physical condition that would substitute the advice given by a medical professional. You should not act or rely solely upon any information contained in this article without first seeking the advice of your personal physician or an emergency care physician.

Meet Dr. Meier:

Dr. Joseph Meier is board-certified in emergency medicine and he received his medical degree, with honors, from Mayo Medical School, Rochester, MN.

He completed his emergency medicine residency at UC Davis, Sacramento, CA, where he pioneered ultrasound protocols and chest pain protocols. Dr. Meier has experience in diagnosing and treating a variety of chronic, acute and sudden-onset conditions.