Fevers can often be worrisome for parents and uncomfortable for children. However, did you know that most fevers are actually good for your child? A fever helps the body's immune system fight infection. Most fevers are a sign of an early viral infection, although bacteria may cause some.
A fever is defined as:
1 Rectal temp over 100.4°F
2 Oral temp over 99.5°F
3 Underarm temp over 98.6°F
100-102°F: low grade fever and beneficial
102-104°F: moderate fever and beneficial
104°F: high fever that causes discomfort, but harmless
105°F: higher risk of bacterial infection
107°F: the fever itself can be harmful
Note: You should call your doctor or go to the ER if: Your child is less than two months old and has a fever, also if your child's temperature is over 106°F
What to do?
Cold fluids and light clothing can make your child much more comfortable. If your child is uncomfortable, you can give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen for fevers above 102°F. This will usually lower you child's fever by 2 to 3 degrees. If medication doesn't sufficiently lower the fever, you can bathe or sponge your child in lukewarm water (85-90°F) for no more than a half hour. Do not use rubbing alcohol. Most fevers caused by a virus will stay between 101° and 104°F for 2-3 days.
Some common myths about fevers
MYTH: All fevers are bad for children.
FACT: Fevers turn on the body's immune system and help fight the infection so most fevers are good.
MYTH: Fevers above 104°F can cause brain damage and are dangerous.
FACT: Fevers with infections don't cause brain damage. Only temperatures over 108°F can cause brain damage. Fevers only get this high due to high outside temperatures (like being locked in a closed car on a hot day).
MYTH: All fevers need to be treated with medicine.
FACT: Fevers only need to be treated if they cause discomfort. Usually that's over 102° or 103°.
MYTH: If the fever doesn't come down or is high, then the cause is serious.
FACT: Viruses and bacteria can cause high fevers that may not come down with drugs. If your child looks very sick (limp, woozy, stiff neck, talking funny), then the cause is serious.
MYTH: Any temperature above 98.6°F is a fever.
FACT: Normal temperatures can go up to 100°F (100.3°F for rectal). This often happens in the evening or after exercise in hot weather.