Home Care Advice for Fever
- Reassurance: Presence of a fever means your child has an infection, usually caused by a virus. Most fevers are good for sick children and help the body fight infection. Use the following definitions to help put your child's level of fever into perspective:
Treatment for All Fevers: Extra Fluids and Less Clothing
- 100°-102°F (37.8° - 39°C) Low grade fevers: beneficial, desirable range
- 102°-104°F (39 - 40°C) Average fever: beneficial
- Over 104°F (40°C) High fever: causes discomfort, but harmless
- Over 106°F (41.1°C) Very high fever: important to bring it down
- Over 108°F (42.3°C) Dangerous fever: fever itself can cause brain damage
- Give cold fluids orally in unlimited amounts (Reason: good hydration replaces sweat and improves heat loss from the skin).
- Dress in 1 layer of light weight clothing and sleep with 1 light blanket (avoid bundling). (Caution: overheated infants can't undress themselves.)
- For fevers 100°-102° F (37.8° - 39°C), this is the only treatment needed (fever medicines are unnecessary).
- Fevers only need to be treated with medicine if they cause discomfort. That usually means fevers above 102°F (39°C).
- Give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g., Advil). See the dosage charts.
- The goal of fever therapy is to bring the temperature down to a comfortable level. Remember, the fever medicine usually lowers the fever by 2° to 3° F (1 - 1.5° C).
- Avoid aspirin (Reason: risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare but serious brain disease)
- Avoid alternating acetaminophen and ibuprofen (Reason: unnecessary and risk of overdosage)
Contagiousness: Your child can return to child care or school after the fever is gone and your child feels well enough to participate in normal activities.
Expected Course of Fever: Most fevers associated with viral illnesses fluctuate between 101° and 104° F (38.4° and 40° C) and last for 2 or 3 days.
Call Your Doctor If:
- Note: Sponging is optional for high fevers, not required.
- Indication: May sponge for (1) fever above 104° F (40° C) AND (2) doesn't come down with acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen (always give fever medicine first).
- How to sponge: Use lukewarm water (85 - 90° F) (29.4 - 32.2° C). Do not use rubbing alcohol. Sponge for 20-30 minutes.
- If your child shivers or becomes cold, stop sponging or increase the water temperature.
- Fever goes above 104° F (40° C) repeatedly
- Any fever occurs if under 12 weeks old
- Fever without a cause persists over 24 hours (if age less than 2 years)
- Fever persists over 3 days (72 hours)
- Your child becomes worse
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
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Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. Clinical content review provided by Senior Reviewer and Healthpoint Medical Network.
Last Review Date: 6/1/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011 3:03:25 PM
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Version Year: 2012
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.