Children’s Fevers: When to Go to the Doctor

Does that high temperature require a visit to the doctor? Here’s how to tell.

In the midst of cold and flu season, it’s not uncommon to wonder whether your child’s fever requires a trip  to your pediatrician or family practitioner.

Many parents ask themselves, when should I seek medical attention for my child? Is age a factor?

According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, most doctors describe a fever as a temperature reading 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or greater. You can measure your child’s temperature orally (in the mouth), rectally (in the bottom), or in an axillary position (under the arm). Your child should visit your physician if these age factors apply:

  • Under 3 months with a rectal fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • From 3-6 months with a fever of 101 degrees or higher
  • Over 6 months with a fever of 102.2 degrees or higher

Signs of fever in your child shouldn’t send you into immediate panic mode. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, fevers are a sign that your child’s immune system is fighting an infection.

A child who is showing signs of discomfort should be treated by a physician. Fevers often won’t cause discomfort until they reach 102 degrees. Treatment of your child’s fever won’t dispel the infection. It will simply lessen discomfort associated with the fever.

Ways to reduce your child’s fever:

  • Dress your child with minimal clothing to avoid trapping body heat
  • Encourage the intake of fluids such as water, juice, or popsicles
  • Bathe your child in lukewarm water, making sure he or she doesn’t begin to shiver, because this can cause the body temperature to rise
  • Placing cold washcloths where your child’s blood vessels are close to the surface (forehead, wrists, and groin)

If you’re unsure of when you should take your child to the doctor, call the doctor’s office for guidelines.

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