First Aid - Treating a Fever

DrPAOLA.com TIP: For extended fever relief, cool your baby with a bath in lukewarm or barely-cool water for 20-40 minutes while pre-administered fever reduction medication prepares to take effect. In proper doses, ibuprofen can be administered every six hours OR acetaminophen can be administered every four hours. (mathematically speaking, alternating every 3 hours between proper dosages of these 2 different analgesics would fall within the above listed parameters.)

IMPORTANT: In the case that, FOR WHATEVER REASON, you cannot control the fever of your baby to under 102.5 F, please get your baby to a doctor, clinic, or emergency room immediately !

General Fever Facts

Fever is defined as an axillary temperature greater than 100.4 F degrees OR greater than 99.4 F degrees for a child under 2 months of age.

Fever is a SYMPTOM of an illness or infection. It is not always serious; but every parent should know some proper techniques to help manage a fever.

  • A fever is often a sign of infection - raising internal temperature is the body’s way of fighting infection and is beneficial.
  • The height of a fever is not necessarily related to the severity of the illness. That is, high fever does not always indicate a serious illness nor does a low fever always signify a minor illness.
  • The response to fever-reducing medicine is not related to the severity of the illness.
  • Fever is defined as a rectal body temperature above 100.4 F degrees Fahrenheit, measured by glass thermometer. Axillary (armpit) measurements are usually reliable, but oral measurements will be inaccurate unless the child can keep his mouth closed for at least three minutes. Fever strips and "home" digital thermometers are less accurate and should not be used for children. Tympanic (ear) thermometers should be used only for children older than six months.
  • Parents must know how to take their child’s temperature. Our nurses are happy to teach you if necessary. Be sure to practice when your child is NOT sick!
  • Teething is not a cause of fever.

Fever as A Sign of Illness

Since fever is often a sign of infection, it LIKELY warrants a visit to your pediatrician. If no evidence of severe or treatable infection is revealed by examination, the fever can be reasonably attributed to one of many viral illnesses. Follow-up, observation and symptomatic treatment may be all that is necessary. In the event of a more severe infection, further testing or even hospitalization may be required.

Fever in infants less than two-three months of age should ALWAYS warrant a visit to the pediatrician’s office.

When to Call the Doctor

  • A fever in a baby less than two months of age
  • A fever of 102.5 F at any age
  • A fever that persists more than 48 hours
  • Any child who has particular signs of sickness with fever such as pain, persistent vomiting, breathing trouble, trouble with urination, rash or diarrhea
  • When you are worried about your child, unsure or confused, or see any other sign which you feel should be reported
  • When your parental instincts sense that something could be seriously wrong with your child

Treating Fever

Sometimes an infant or child will have a fever and seem bright and happy; in that case temperature reduction is not necessary. If the child is cranky or listless, reducing the fever may help the child feel better. Remember that extra fluids will be important. Do not bundle your child. Clothe him-her lightly instead.

To treat a fever we recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol, Nortemp, Tempra, Panadol, etc.) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) but NOT Aspirin. Be sure to administer the proper amount. Sponging with lukewarm or slightly cool water will also bring temporary fever relief. Sponging without medication will result in only very brief fever reduction – the temperature will rise again when the bath is over. Sponging is generally not necessary for fevers under 103. Never give COLD baths or enemas which cause shivering and drive the temperature up instead of down. Alcohol baths are also Dangerous and should be avoided. Give plenty of fluids, (like Pedialyte) enough to maintain steady hydration.

Aspirin is no longer recommended to treat a fever. Its use during certain infections can lead to Reyes’ Syndrome, a severe and sometimes fatal illness.

Remember that all medicines have side effects and should be used carefully and only when necessary. Keep all medicines in a locked or inaccessible cabinet. WARNING: Overdoses of aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen can be fatal.

DISCLAIMER: The information on drpaola.com is for general educational purposes only and should not be considered to be medical advice for your particular case . It is in no way meant to replace the advice of the licensed physician who cares for your child. Any and all medical information contained herein is not complete without a comprehensive physical examination; which is not possible without a visit to your doctor.

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