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A fever is defined as any temperature greater than 100.4, regardless of age. The thermometer can vary by age; the ideal mode of accurately recording a temperature is rectally or orally. Rectal temperatures are much easier to obtain in younger children, while typically, only older children can take a temperature orally, as it requires patience and following directions. There are many other, less intrusive ways to collect temperatures, with forehead, ear, or axillary temperatures being the most common – and they all work just fine.
Is there a temperature at which you should worry? The short answer is no. We treat all temperatures the same regardless of whether they are 100.5 or 105. The only time a pediatrician will tell you that a fever is an emergency is if the child is 28 days or less of age or if there is an immunocompromising medical condition that requires aggressive care of fevers in a child.
The most important guidance for what you should do about your child’s fever is to observe your child. If your child is playing, eating, and drinking normally, you do not have to do anything for the fever. Temperatures rise, and they naturally go back down within a few hours. Don’t forget that a fever is your body’s way of fighting off whatever is causing the fever – so fevers are not inherently bad.
The time to treat a fever is when you can tell that your child does not feel or act well. You do not have to wait to see how high the temperature will rise before treating the fever because your pediatrician will treat all fevers the same. There are two options for treating your child’s fever – Tylenol or Motrin, and dosing is based on weight. Cold baths and topical rubbing alcohol are not proven as effective fever reducers and can actually make your child more miserable.
Call your pediatrician if there are any concerns for your child’s fever, if it’s lasted longer than 48 hours, or if they are not acting well despite your treating their fever with appropriate medications.
Dr. Savannah Browning grew up in Fayette, AL. She moved to Mobile to attend Medical School at the University of South Alabama in 2009, and has been a proud Mobilian ever since. She joined Children’s Medical Group in 2016, and her office is at the Airport Boulevard location. She lives in Mobile with her husband, Andrew, and their three children: Jude, Luke, and Annie.