Pharmacy Corner
Fever in Children: Sorting Facts From Myths When should I be concerned about fever?
Stethoscope

When should I take my child to the doctor or the hospital?

If your child has any of the following signs, he or she should see a doctor:1

  • Your child is less than 6 months old
  • The fever is 40.5°C (104.9°F) or higher
  • Your child has a stiff neck and/or a severe headache
  • Your child has had a seizure (including febrile seizures)
    • Even though febrile seizures are harmless, your child should still be reviewed by a doctor to make sure the seizure was caused by the fever, and not by the infection.
  • Your child has an area on his or her body that is red, swollen, and painful
  • Your child looks and acts very sick, for example:
    • He or she is extremely irritable, fussy, or will not stop crying more than usual
    • He or she is extremely sluggish, difficult to wake up, or seems confused
  • Your child just started a new medication and also has a rash
  • Your child has recently received chemotherapy
  • Your child has a serious medical condition (e.g., heart disease, cancer, lupus, sickle cell anemia)
  • The fever has lasted longer than 24 hours without any obvious signs of an infection (e.g., cold, earache, stomach bug, etc.)
  • The fever has lasted for 3 days with or without treatment with medications, (e.g., acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®))

What are the signs and symptoms of fever?

Thermometer2

A definite sign that your child has a fever is:1,12

  • A body temperature that is 38.0°C (100.4°F) or higher

Other signs and symptoms of fever may include:

  • Skin that feels warm and looks flushed
  • Shivering or sweating
  • Feeling tired or achy
  • Feeling thirsty

Most children will also have symptoms of the infection causing the fever, such as a sore throat, stomachache, or earache.12

MYTH

MYTH: My child has a fever if he or she feels warm.

How warm skin is to touch is NOT the most accurate way to tell if your child has a fever. This is because how warm your child’s skin feels depends on the temperature of your hand.1 The best way to confirm fever is to measure your child’s temperature using a thermometer.