Part of being a parent is worrying for our children, and that’s especially true when fevers spike. Feeling fearful when a fever occurs is a normal reaction, but having a solid understanding of why fevers happen can help diminish those fears. While your first reaction might be to call your child’s doctor, take a moment to assess the situation. A visit to the doctor might not be necessary. In fact, your child could even go to daycare or school depending on the fever he or she has. Here’s what you need to know.
Our body temperatures vary throughout the day, lower in the mornings and higher in the evenings. Normal body temperatures can be between 97 degrees to 99 degrees, depending on the person. When fevers occur, there is a spike in the normal body temperature. In children, a fever is classified as any temperature over 100.4 degrees. Your child might also experience shivering, sweating, chills and may feel the need to add layers of clothing or curl up under a blanket. However, children are resilient. Most kids can have a fever of 102 degrees and still play normally.
It’s important to remember that if your child is experiencing a fever, his or her body is doing exactly what it is meant to. Fevers can occur as a result of a virus, bacterial infection, sunburns, heat exhaustion or even certain medicines and vaccinations, like antibiotics or DTaP.
When to Call the Doctor
Not every fever requires a visit to the doctor or for your child to stay home. If your child is older than four months, their fever is 100.4 degrees or lower and they are still active (playing normally), it’s usually safe for them to go to school or daycare. You might not even need to treat the fever with medications if your child’s activity levels are still high. For example, if you have to chase the kiddo, they probably don’t need medicine at that moment. Just be sure to check their fever regularly. In most of these cases, the fever will be gone by morning.
On the other hand, other fevers require medical attention. Here’s what you need to know. As a general rule, the younger your child, the sooner you should see the doctor. If your child is less than 3 months old and spikes a fever over 100.4 degrees, you should immediately see a doctor. For infants between 3 and 6 months, medical attention is needed for fevers over 101 degrees and for infants over 6 months, look for fevers over 103 degrees.
Other indicators to watch for include any of the following. If your child is experiencing these, call your physician immediately to set up an appointment or take your child to a walk-in acute care clinic.
- Any fever between 104 and 105 degrees.
- A sore throat and fever that lasts more than 24 to 48 hours.
- Fever accompanied by cough, sore throat, headaches, body aches, pain urinating, diarrhea or ear aches.
- A child experiencing lethargy, loss of appetite, rashes, difficulty breathing or even seizures.
Remember to trust your instincts. You are a parent and you know your child best. If you feel the need to see or talk to a doctor, don’t hesitate.