Parents can understandably be concerned when their child doesn’t feel well and has a fever. But how high is too high? When should a parent treat a fever at home and when should they seek medical help?
Dr. Mark Baker is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Children’s of Alabama and works in the Emergency Department. He says a fever is anything higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. “Fever is the body’s response to an infection,” he says. “Fevers are generally well tolerated in healthy children, especially if they are up to date with recommended childhood vaccines.”
Dr. Baker says there are instances when a parent should take a fever seriously and seek medical attention. These include when a child has a temperature higher than 100.4 AND:
- Is 3 months of age or younger
- Has serious underlying medical problems
- Experiences pain or other concerns
If any of these conditions exist, parents are encouraged to take their child to the Emergency Department. If a parent is unsure how serious the situation may be, their child’s pediatrician is available to help. Even after hours, a pediatrician’s office has a 24/7 on call line.
Dr. Baker says in an otherwise healthy child, a fever can usually be treated at home with either ibuprofen or acetaminophen, (Motrin or Tylenol). He says it is best to stick with one form of treatment and follow the dosage instructions. If the over the counter medicine isn’t helping, Dr. Baker advises parents to call their child’s pediatrician or go to the Emergency Department.
Parents can also make sure their child is more comfortable by dressing them in lightweight clothing and covering them with a light sheet or blanket. It’s very important that the child gets plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. A sponge bath or wet cloth may help lower their temperature and make them feel more comfortable.
All kids get fevers, and in most cases recover completely within a few days. But if you ever have concerns about your child’s well-being, it’s best to contact their doctor for guidance.