It is generally a safe bet to assume that your child will encounter a fever at some point during their young life. This is totally normal! But, as their caretaker, it is important that you know the best way to approach abnormal body temperatures and when to worry about a fever. Although it is often a scary thing to see your child sick, knowing what is safe and normal, and what might need medical attention, can bring you some peace of mind. So keep reading for valuable information on taking care of your little one when they are feeling warm and under the weather. 

What is Normal and What is Not

When spotting a fever, it’s a good idea to start with the baseline. This means understanding what temperature your child is on a normal day. Note that temperatures do vary. Some little ones are naturally a little hotter or cooler than others, and body temperature in the morning might be lower than in the evening, or higher if kids are more active.

The general rule of thumb is that 98.6℉ is normal and anything over 100.4℉ is a fever. But a fever does not always indicate the need to worry. If fever is below 102℉ in kids, often you don’t need to do anything other than take good care of your little one. For kids younger than three, temperatures above 102.2℉ indicate that it is time to call your pediatrician and ask them if you should go in for a visit. For older children with a temperature above 102.2℉, it is still recommended to make a call to your pediatrician and get advice on the situation at hand.

For infants however, acceptable temperature ranges are much more sensitive. Even a low grade fever could indicate something more serious that you might want to get looked at. If an infant fever is at a rectal temperature above 100.4℉, call a doctor or visit an emergency room immediately. For infants, even an abnormally low temperature, such as below 97.7℉, is worrisome and should be brought to a doctor’s attention. 

When to Worry About a Fever

It may be cause for worry if fever symptoms are ongoing, persisting for more than 5 days, if fever is above 104℉, and if the fever isn’t going down, even with medication.

Be sure to watch out for problems like dehydration that can happen as a result of a fever. Signs include not drinking enough fluids, continued vomiting or diarrhea, urinating less than usual, inability to produce tears when crying, or low alertness and activity.

Sometimes it is still important to call a doctor, even if your child only has a low grade fever. For example, kids with a fever lower than 102.2℉ might still need medical attention if the fever persists. For kids younger than 2, if the fever lasts more than 24 hours, or 72 hours for kids older than 2, it is time to call your doctor.

If the fevers are often and continue, if there is an existing medical issue, or if your child has a specific concern (sore throat, earache, rash, or pain while urinating) these are signs that you should bring your child in to see a pediatrician.

Beyond this, notice if and how your child is changing from their normal behavior patterns. If they are still interested in eating, drinking, playing, and smiling that is usually a good sign. But, if this is not the case, it’s a good idea to give your pediatrician a call. 

It’s An Emergency If…

Go to the emergency room immediately if your child experiences extreme symptoms, including but not limited to: inability to stop crying, irritability, difficulty waking up, headache, stomach pain, trouble breathing when airways are clear, refusal to move, discoloration of skin (rash, bruise like spots, blue body parts such as nails, lips, and tongue), leaning forward and drooling, stiffness of the neck, or seizure. For infants, if the top of their head at the soft spot is bulging or sunken in, take them to the emergency room.

Keep in mind

Keep in mind, the higher the fever doesn’t necessarily signal the seriousness of the illness. Even the common cold can trigger a high fever in kids, with relatively low risk. Something serious in infants can even be spotted by an abnormally low temperature such as below 97.7℉. If you have any concerns or worries, always stay on the side of caution and call a medical professional. Your Coastal Kids pediatrician is here to assist you through any concerns you may have for the health of your child.