Pharmacy Corner
Fever in Children: Sorting Facts From Myths What does this temperature mean?

At what temperature does my child have a fever?

Fever is a temperature of 38.0°C (100.4°C) or more.1,2 Rectal temperatures are the “gold standard” for giving an exact measurement of body temperature.13 Measuring other areas, such as the mouth, armpit, and ear, are not as accurate for measuring body temperature, but they are more convenient than taking a rectal temperature.1,13

Normal and fever temperature ranges for the rectum, mouth, armpit, and ear are listed below.

Normal and fever temperatures based on area of measurement1

AreaNormal rangeFever range
Rectum36.6-38.0°C (97.9-100.4°F)Higher than 38.0°C (100.4°F)
Mouth35.5-37.5°C (95.9-99.5°F)Higher than 37.5°C (99.5°F)
Armpit34.7-37.3°C (94.5-99.1°F)Higher than 37.3°C (99.1°F)
Ear35.8-38.0°C (96.4-100.4°F)Higher than 38.0°C (100.4°F)


MYTH: Temperatures between 37.0°C and 38.0°C are “low-grade” fevers.

Temperatures between 37.0°C and 38.0°C are actually still considered “normal” temperatures.14 Although the body’s temperature is kept pretty constant at 37.0°C, it is normal for body temperature to go up and down throughout the day. Things that normally raise our temperatures above normal are exercise, thick clothing, hot weather, and hot baths.


MYTH: The higher the fever, the sicker my child is.

In most cases, a high fever does not mean your child is more sick. In fact, high fevers are often caused by ordinary viral infections, like the common cold. On the other hand, some serious infections may only cause a mild fever.7,9

You can tell how severe your child’s illness is by how sick he or she looks and acts, NOT by the numbers on the thermometer.2