Fevers are a common occurrence in children and can be concerning for parents. Understanding the causes of a fever can help parents determine when to seek medical attention and when to treat their child at home.
What is a fever?
A fever is a temporary increase in body temperature, usually caused by an infection. A normal body temperature ranges from 97°F to 99°F (36.1°C to 37.2°C). A fever is generally considered to be a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher.
Causes of a fever
The most common cause of a fever in children is an infection. Viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens can cause a fever. Common infections that can cause a fever include:
- Colds and flu
- Ear infections
- Strep throat
- Urinary tract infections
Some children may develop a low-grade fever after receiving a vaccination. This is a normal response to the vaccine and usually goes away on its own within a few days.
Teething can also cause a low-grade fever in some children. This is due to the inflammation that occurs as a tooth is pushing through the gums.
When to seek medical attention
Most fevers in children are not serious and can be treated at home. However, there are some situations when parents should seek medical attention:
- If the child is under 3 months old and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
- If the child is between 3 and 6 months old and has a fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher
- If the child has a fever of 104°F (40°C) or higher
- If the child has a fever that lasts longer than 3 days
- If the child has other symptoms such as a stiff neck, severe headache, or difficulty breathing
Treating a fever at home
If the child has a fever but is otherwise healthy, parents can try the following to help lower the fever:
- Give the child plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
- Dress the child in lightweight clothing
- Use a cool compress to help lower the child's body temperature
- Giving the child over-the-counter fever-reducing medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
When to avoid medication
It is important to note that not all fevers need to be treated with medication. In fact, a fever can actually be beneficial as it helps the body fight off infections. Parents should avoid giving their child fever-reducing medication if:
- The child is under 3 months old
- The child has a history of liver or kidney disease
- The child is allergic to the medication
- The child has a bleeding disorder
Fevers are a common occurrence in children and are usually not a cause for concern. However, parents should be aware of the causes of a fever and when to seek medical attention. By following the appropriate treatment guidelines, parents can help their child feel better and recover from an infection.
Warmly (but not too warm),