Fever is one of the most common reasons why parents bring their children to the doctor. Considering how common it is, it is important for parents to understand what qualifies as fever and how they should respond to it.
Grant Clinkingbeard, MD, pediatrician with Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health in Covington, shares advice for parents when it comes to fevers in kids.
What Qualifies as a Fever?
Fever is any temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Is Fever an Emergency?
Usually, fever is not an emergency and does NOT require a trip to the ER. Mostly, fever can be evaluated in your doctor’s office. There are cases, however, where fever may require emergency evaluation:
Newborns are at risk for serious bacterial infections due to including lack of vaccination and exposures during childbirth. Children under 21 days of age with fever will require an extensive workup and should be taken immediately to the emergency department if they have a temperature >100.4 degrees.
Infants between 21 and 90 days of age may require an extensive workup if no other source of infection is found. Fever in infants of this age should prompt an urgent call to the pediatrician, who can help the family determine if work-up should happen in the office or in the emergency department.
There are certain diseases (cancer, immune deficiencies, sickle cell disease, etc.) and some medications (e.g., immunosuppressants) that may place children at higher risk for infection. These children may need emergency evaluation if they have a fever. Children who fall into these high-risk groups should have been instructed by their healthcare provider.
Our pediatric symptom checker is an always-available tool we provide to help parents, but if you are unsure if your child’s fever needs emergency evaluation, don’t hesitate to contact your pediatrician.
What Medicine Can I Give?
Medications that help reduce fever are referred to as antipyretics. Ibuprofen (for example Motrin or Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are two frequently used. Download our ibuprofen and acetaminophen dosing guide.
Infants younger than six months should ONLY receive acetaminophen. Ibuprofen is not approved for use in children under six months due to its effects on the developing kidneys.
For children older than six months, both ibuprofen and acetaminophen are appropriate. Alternating medications is an effective strategy for difficult-to-control fevers. These medications are appropriate for short-term use and should not be used on a prolonged and frequent basis.
Children with kidney conditions, liver conditions, bleeding disorders or other medical conditions should consult with their pediatric provider prior to giving any over-the-counter medication.