Nearly every parent has felt their child’s hot, feverish forehead and worried. Is it serious? How high is too high? Should they go to the doctor?

Many doctors see worried parents bring in their feverish children for treatment. When it comes to fever, prompt medical treatment can be very important. However, in most cases, fevers are not dangerous and can even be viewed as helpful as they fight infections naturally.

Causes of Fever

Fever is a healthy sign the body is working properly to fight and overcome an infection. Through a chemical reaction, your body elevates your core temperature in an effort to stop bad viruses and bacteria from replicating. Since viruses and bacteria can normally only reproduce when conditions are just right, this is a very effective way to shut them down.

Viruses are the most common sources of fever in kids. Young children may have seven to 10 viral illnesses with fever each year — especially if they’re in daycare or preschool, where viruses spread easily among children. The second most common sources of infection are bacteria. Both types of infections can cause fevers.

In very young children — especially infants under 3 months old — fevers can be concerning. This is because their immune systems are still developing, and a fever can put them at risk for a severe infection.

For preschoolers and school-age children, pediatricians worry much less about fevers unless the fever lasts for four days or more. Look for symptoms such as significant listlessness/irritability, a bad sore throat, worsening coughing or pain with urination.

The Right Way to Take a Temperature

Knowing how to take a temperature correctly is one of the most important parenting skills. In babies and children less than 1 year old, it is important to feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature.

To take a rectal temperature, lubricate the digital thermometer with petroleum jelly. Then insert the silver tip of the thermometer into your baby’s rectum about one-quarter of an inch to one-half of an inch. Hold it gently for one minute, then remove and read the temperature.

For children older than 1 year of age, the best and most accurate methods of taking a temperature are with an oral digital thermometer or a tympanic (ear) thermometer. Ear thermometers work well for toddlers and are usually accurate, but can be off if your child has lots of ear wax.

When to See a doctor?

In infants less than 2 months old, a fever is any temperature over 38 c degrees. It’s also a concern if your newborn’s temperature is less than 35,5 degrees. For an abnormal temperature in your newborn, call your doctor or go to the urgent care clinic or emergency room — your newborn needs to be seen right away.


In babies and children older than 3 months, a fever is a temperature greater than 38,5 c, call your doctor if your child’s temperature reaches 39 c degrees or higher.

Most fevers go away in a couple of days. Call your doctor if the fever lasts four days or more. Call the doctor right away if your feverish child has vomiting or diarrhea, earache, severe abdominal pain, headache, stiff neck, sore throat, trouble breathing, pain when urinating, swollen joints, other localized pain and a purplish/dark rash that does not fade when you press on it. Also call the doctor if your child is listless or refuses to drink or eat.

When to Use Fever Relievers?

Fever-reducing medicines are not needed for low-grade fevers 37.5 – 38 C, unless your child seems uncomfortable or is not drinking well. Once a child’s fever rises above 38 C degrees, they generally feel miserable and fever-reducing medicine can help them feel better. Children may also be more likely to drink fluids properly after taking fever-reducing medicines.

Make sure you’re giving your child the correct dose of medicine. Too little medicine won’t be effective, but too much could be dangerous. Follow the instructions on the label carefully and only use the cup or syringe that came with that medicine. (Never use a household teaspoon. They vary in size, so your dose may be wrong.)

Child-Safe Fever Medicines

Two types of fever medicine are safe for children: paracetamol, (Tylenol) and ibuprofen, Tylenol is the only fever-reducing medicine approved by the Food and Drug Administration for babies younger than 6 months old.

Ibuprofen has a few advantages over paracetamol for children older than 6 months of age:

  • It lasts between six and eight hours.
  • It can reduce swelling from teething and ear infections with its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • It may be a better choice for children who have asthma or recurrent wheezing.

It’s a good idea to print out the correct dosing for these medicines. Or bookmark the pages from the American Academy of Pediatrics for easy reference:

Although fevers can be frightening, they’re a sign of a healthy immune system. If your child has a low fever and no other worrisome symptoms, provide plenty of fluids, rest and love. The fever should go away in a few days.


Prepare by:

Dr. Taisser Zaki

Pediatrician in armada medical centre