Hot to the Touch: When is a Child’s Fever Too High?

iStock_000012573825_LargeYou notice your child’s face is flushed and forehead feels hot. You reach for the thermometer and the reading confirms your suspicion of a high fever. As a parent, your first instinct is to worry; however, most of the time a fever is not an indication of anything serious. Learning these quick tips to help you assess the situation will put your mind at ease.

Understanding Fever

Fevers actually have a beneficial purpose. They are one way the body fights infections. It’s important to remember that fever by itself is not an illness, but a symptom of another problem. You only need to treat a fever if it is making a child uncomfortable or contributing to dehydration.

How Does Your Child Feel?

If your child is alert, still interested in playing, and drinking plenty of fluids, you probably don’t need to treat the fever. Watch for other symptoms to help determine if the fever is a concern. A runny nose with fever often indicates a common cold, while a fever with vomiting or diarrhea probably points to a stomach virus.

Concerning Symptoms

If your child has any of the following symptoms with a fever, call your care provider. These symptoms may indicate a bacterial infection or other serious illness.

  • Sore throat
  • Earache
  • Pain While Urinating
  • Less Frequent Urination
  • Severe Abdominal Pain
  • Stiff Neck
  • Shortness of Breath

How High is Too High?

A high temperature in an infant is more serious than in an older child. Use the following guide to determine when a fever has spiked high enough to require a call to the doctor.

  • Age 0 to 2 months: Call if the child has a fever greater than 100.4 degrees. Even a slight fever can be a sign of a potentially serious infection in very young infants.
  • Age 3 to 6 months: Call if the fever is greater than 101 degrees.
  • Age 6+ months: Call if the fever is greater than 103 degrees.

You should also call the doctor if:

  • The fever persists for more than 24 hours in a child younger than 2 years.
  • The fever persists for more than 3 days (72 hours) in a child 2 years of age or older.

If You’re Unsure, Make a Call

If you’re still not sure about the severity of your child’s condition, a quick call to your child’s primary care office can help provide guidance. A nurse can ask you questions, assess the situation, and let you know if you need to make an appointment. The LeBauer team of family practice care providers has experience caring for children of all ages. Look for an office convenient to your location and give us a call.

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