One of the most worrying moments of parenting is when your child wakes you in the middle of the night and feels very warm to the touch. It is especially alarming when it happens for the first time as a new parent.
Suddenly a million questions flood your brain. Is this a fever? How high is too high? What caused this? Should I rush him to the emergency room? What kind of medicine should I give her?
The sudden panic is genuine, and you are not alone: every parent has been there. Your concern is a sign that you deeply love your baby and want to keep them safe and healthy.
When these scary moments arise, you can have peace of mind if you already know fever symptoms, causes, and treatments. You will be ready as a parent to respond correctly when your child is ill and help them if sick.
Keep reading to learn more about fevers and how you as a parent can best care for your child when they experience one.
What is a fever?
The first thing to note about a fever is that it is not an illness but rather a symptom of sickness. A fever is a temporary rise in your child’s internal body temperature where their immune system fights off viral infections and other illnesses. Therefore, running a fever is a good sign that their body operates the way it is naturally supposed to work.
It is essential to assess what underlying cause brought on the fever to treat that condition, and then the body will reduce the fever. A pediatrician’s main concern with fever is if your child’s system raises its internal temperature to heights unsafe for them.
This max temperature is slightly lower than for adults for children, which means you should monitor fevers closely in your kids. When a slight fever occurs, it may be best to let it run its course, but when young children run a high fever, it is often best to treat it with fever-reducing medication to avoid complications from the fever.
What are the symptoms of a fever?
Feeling hot to the touch is the most obvious sign that your child has a fever. But many other symptoms could indicate your child is not feeling well and may need treatment. When a mild fever accompanies these physical signs, the conditions can often be treated and monitored at home.
Common Symptoms of fever include:
- Weakness & Aching
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
A severe underlying condition will produce more serious symptoms that you should watch out for. If your child exhibits any of the following symptoms, you should visit their doctor or make a Pediatric Telemedicine appointment to seek medical advice immediately.
Severe Symptoms of fever include:
- Trouble breathing
- Febrile seizures
- Difficulty waking
- Refusing fluids
- Stiff neck
What are the causes of fever in children?
Your child’s body reacts with common to severe symptoms because running a high temperature makes it difficult for viral and bacterial infections to survive and thrive. There are many infections and conditions that may cause your child’s temperature to rise. Many of these conditions are common childhood illnesses and may need treatment but are not cause for extreme concern.
Common conditions that cause fever in children:
- Ear infections
- Common cold
- Respiratory infections
- Strep throat
- Kidney infection
- Urinary tract infection
Unlike common conditions you can treat at home with close monitoring and medication, a board-certified pediatrician may need to monitor some severe sicknesses. These conditions are often associated with fever and can cause further complications, such as brain or lung damage and blood infections. If you believe your child has any of these illnesses, you should seek the attention of a medical professional immediately.
Serious conditions that cause fever in children:
- Fever of unknown origin lasting 8 days
Body temperatures can safely fluctuate by varying degrees. Most learn that an average human body has a temperature of 98.6°, but the truth is that an average normal temperature can range anywhere from 97°-99°. In fact, for many, body temperatures start at a lower temperature and rise throughout the day.
Because temperatures vary, it is wise to be familiar with the average temperature of your child when they are well. We suggest checking it throughout the day as a regular practice to understand what a genuine rise or drop in temperature level is for their body.
When to Call a Doctor
Babies Under 6 Months
For a baby under 3 months of age, a rectal temperature of 100.4° or higher warrants a call to a doctor or visit to an emergency room.
For a baby 3-6 months, an oral temperature of 101° or higher should receive a medical assessment.
It should be noted that an ear temperature is not an accurate reading if the child is under 6 months.
Children Under 2
If a child between 6-24 months runs a fever above 101° for over 24 hours without other symptoms, you should contact a doctor.
Children Over 2
For children over 2, most fevers without severe symptoms can be monitored and treated at home. Pediatricians identity your child’s temperature as a true fever when:
Rectal, Ear, Digital Forehead Temperature over 100.4°
Oral Temperature over 100°
Armpit Temperature over 99°
How to Treat a Fever
There are several actions you can take as a parent to help your child’s body fight any illness or condition that is causing a fever.
First, your child must stay hydrated by encouraging them to regularly drink cool water and other non-sugary drinks. A doctor or Pediatric Telemedicine professional may often recommend an electrolyte drink (not a sugary sports drink) to help them get well.
Babies should keep fluids up with breastmilk or formula. Allow your child to eat as their appetite allows. It is usual for children who don’t feel well to refuse to eat for a time, and that is okay as long as they are drinking fluids.
You should keep their environmental temperature at a comfortable level, including adjusting their thermostat, opening their windows, dressing them in cool clothing, and providing them with a blanket. We do not recommend you use a sponge bath to regulate your child’s temperature.
Children’s fever-reducing medications may be used for children over 6 months if the child is uncomfortable. If the fever does not highly affect them, medication will not be necessary (when the fever is below 102°).
Remember: running a low fever itself is not a condition that you need to treat necessarily. Treating the underlying cause will, in most cases, resolve a high temperature.
You should contact a doctor immediately if:
- Your child’s fever is 104° or higher
- Your child experiences severe symptoms
- Your child has a compromised immune system
- Your baby is less than 12 weeks old
- Your child’s fever lasts more than 3 days or returns after 24 hours free of fever
Our Virtual Pediatricians Understand Fever Conditions
When your child runs a fever, you want to ensure they get better, especially when you have a busy schedule. In most cases, all you need are home remedies, which will help you treat your child correctly. You will know the answer to those millions of questions racing through your mind and calm down from raging panic.
However, there are times when your child may experience severe symptoms, and you cannot treat them by yourself. You will need a board-certified pediatrician who can diagnose your child with the condition plaguing them and offer treatment.
Our team of virtual kid doctors has diagnosed children like yours with fever and understands how to identify their underlying conditions. We genuinely care about your kids and would be glad to answer any questions you have about what might be causing their fever.
You can call us at (888)-961-8885 or send us a message through our online contact form. One of our team representatives will get back to you shortly.