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Fever in Children
Dr. Richard DeVuyst, Schneck Pediatrics - March 14, 2018
Fever is one of the most common reasons parents bring their children to my clinic, and there is a great deal of misunderstanding around it. First, let’s clear up some common misperceptions about fever.

Common Misperceptions

Myth: Any temperature higher than 99 means a child is sick.
Truth: Everyone experiences normal, healthy fluctuations in body temperature. It’s important to pay attention to what’s happening along with a raised temperature. I’ve seen healthy children with a temperature of 100, and sick children with temperature of 98.6. 
 
Myth: If a child does not have a fever, he or she is not sick. 
Truth: Not every illness that can cause problems in children causes a fever, so the absence of a fever doesn’t necessarily mean a child is healthy. However, I’ve never seen a child with a temperature above 101 who didn’t have an illness of some kind, whether viral or bacterial.
 
Myth: A high fever can damage a child.
Truth: The underlying cause of a fever is more likely to cause harm than the fever itself. That said, a fever higher than 104 can be dangerous, so a child with a fever that high should see a pediatrician.
 
Myth: Fever makes illness worse, so lowering a fever treats the illness.
Truth: There is no evidence that fever makes an illness worse, or that lowering a fever with medicine treats the underlying illness. However, lowering a fever can make a child more comfortable, which can prevent other problems, such as dehydration.
 

When to Visit Your Pediatrician

The key to knowing when your child needs to see a doctor is to pay attention to what else is happening when a fever is present. Not every child with a temperature higher than 101 needs to be seen. If a 3-year-old with a mild cough, a runny nose and a temperature of 101 is not experiencing trouble breathing, is drinking well, and seems happy and playful, he or she likely can be monitored at home. However, if a 3-month-old baby with a temperature of 100.9 is not drinking and is breathing hard, this child should be seen right away.
 
Visit the doctor if:
  • Your child is younger than 2 months old and has a fever higher than 100.5.
  • Your child (of any age) has a fever higher than 104.
  • The fever is not improved with Tylenol or ibuprofen.
 
A child with a fever can be monitored at home if:
  • He or she is older than 2 months and is not experiencing dehydration or trouble breathing.
  • The fever is lower than 104.
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