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Concerns and Care for Child’s Fever

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Childhood illness is a common occurrence that typically involves a fever. A fever is a rise in body temperature above the usual range in response to an infection. As a health and nutrition expert, I understand that a child's fever can be troubling for parents and caregivers. It is understandably concerning when a child develops a fever, and parents often wonder what is causing it and when they should be concerned.

Causes and Symptoms of Fever in Children

Fever is typically an indication that the body is fighting against an infection. In most cases, fever is not life-threatening, but it is essential to identify and treat the underlying cause. Below are the common causes and symptoms of fever in children:

  • Infections: Infections are the most common cause of fever in children. Viral infections are the most frequent, and they can result in a low-grade fever. On the other hand, bacterial infections can cause high fever, accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Vaccinations: After receiving certain vaccinations, some children may experience a mild fever as a side effect. This is normal and should not raise alarm.
  • Teething: As teeth begin to push through a child's gums, they may experience a mild fever. It is essential to monitor a fever in these cases and not assume it is teething.
  • Environmental Factors: Children can experience fever due to external factors such as sunburn, overheating, dehydration, or exposure to chemicals.

The symptoms that accompany a fever in children can vary, depending on the underlying cause. Common symptoms include:

  • Chills and shivers
  • Sweating
  • Headaches and muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Irritability and fussiness

When to Worry: Indications of Serious Illness

A fever in a child can be a cause for concern, but not all fevers indicate a serious illness. It's normal for a child's body temperature to fluctuate due to changes in activity levels and emotional states. However, there are indications of serious illness that require immediate medical attention.

What is the threshold for a fever in a child? The American Academy of Pediatrics defines a fever as a temperature above 100.4°F (38°C) for children three months and older. For infants younger than three months, a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) is a medical emergency. In these cases, it’s best to contact your pediatrician or go to the emergency room immediately.

It’s important to act quickly if your child experiences a fever and exhibits other symptoms of serious illness, such as difficulty breathing or an unusual rash. Other signs of serious illness include seizures, lethargy, vomiting, and a stiff neck. If your child experiences these symptoms in combination with a fever, seek medical attention immediately.

Remember that fever is not a disease but a symptom of an underlying condition, and it's essential to determine the underlying cause to address the problem effectively. Therefore, do not hesitate to bring your child to the doctor for professional diagnosis and expert advice.

Management of Fever in Children

Fever in children is not a condition that parents should take lightly, and it is crucial to have a clear strategy for managing it. While a fever in children does not always require medical attention, the proper management of fever could make a significant difference.

There are several ways to manage fever in children, including the use of home remedies, over-the-counter medications, and alternative medicine or treatment.

Home remedies: Several natural remedies could be helpful in reducing fever in children. These remedies include:

  • Placing a cool cloth on the child's forehead helps to reduce body temperature.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids, such as water or fruit juices.
  • Dressing the child in clothing that is light and thin.

Over-the-counter medication: Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are readily available and are recommended for managing fever in children. However, it is essential to adhere to the recommended dosage prescribed for the child's age and weight.

Alternative medicine and treatment: Parents can also use alternative medicine for children with fever. Some of these treatments include:

Prevention of Fever in Children

As the old proverb goes, prevention is better than cure, and this is never truer for fever in children. Here are some precautions you can take to keep your child healthy:

Hygiene practices

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizers
  • Cover your mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing
  • Do not let your child share eating utensils, cups, or towels
  • Teach your child proper hygiene etiquette to avoid exposure to germs


Immunization is the best way to protect your child from infectious diseases that may result in a fever. Talk to a pediatrician or a doctor to decide the best age-appropriate schedule for your child's vaccinations.

Lifestyle changes

Here are some simple lifestyle changes that can make a big difference:

  • Encourage your child to maintain a well-balanced diet
  • Make sure your child gets enough sleep and rest
  • Encourage physical activity and exercise
  • Manage stress and anxiety levels

Caring for the Sick Child

Dealing with a sick child can be a difficult task, especially when they have a fever. Here are some tips for taking care of a sick child at home:

- Keep your child well hydrated by offering plenty of water and fluids.
- Sponge your child with lukewarm water to help lower their body temperature.
- Dress your child in loose clothing to help dissipate heat and prevent overheating.
- Allow your child to rest and avoid any strenuous activity.
- Keep your home quiet and dark, as bright lights and loud noises can irritate a sick child.
- Monitor your child's temperature frequently and keep track of any changes.
- Give your child any prescribed medication at the appropriate time.

The role of the family and caretaker is vital when taking care of a child with a fever. Children require constant attention and care in order to ensure a speedy recovery. The family should provide emotional support, engage in calming activities with the child, and foster a comfortable environment for the sick child.

In addition, it is important to prevent the spread of illness to other family members or caretakers who may also be at risk. Frequent hand-washing and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces can help prevent the further spread of germs.


Fever in children is a common occurrence and often a result of the immune system fighting off infection. As parents or guardians, it is crucial to understand the signs of fever and when to seek medical attention. It's essential to note that not all fevers in children are an indication of a severe illness. However, proper diagnosis and treatment can prevent severe complications.

As a health, nutrition, and fitness expert, we urge parents and guardians to take fever seriously and follow the recommended medical procedures. Always consult with a healthcare professional to get expert advice and diagnosis. By understanding fever in children and taking the necessary action, we can limit illness severity and improve overall child health.


1. What is considered a fever in children?

A fever in children is defined as a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).

2. At what temperature should I seek medical attention for my child?

If your child has a fever higher than 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius) or if they have other concerning symptoms like dehydration, difficulty breathing, or lethargy, it's important to seek medical attention immediately.

3. Can I give my child over-the-counter medication for their fever?

Yes, over-the-counter medication like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help bring down your child's fever and ease discomfort. However, it's important to always follow the instructions on the label and to consult with a pediatrician before giving your child any medication.

4. Should I use alternative medicine or treatment for my child's fever?

Alternative medicine and treatment can be used in conjunction with traditional medicine, but it's important to consult with a pediatrician first. Some alternative treatments may not be safe for children or may interfere with their medical treatments.

5. How can I prevent my child from getting a fever?

Practicing good hygiene like washing hands frequently and covering coughs and sneezes can help prevent the spread of illness. Additionally, keeping your child up-to-date with vaccinations and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with exercise and a balanced diet can help boost their immune system.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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