Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
            The Aga Khan University Hospital Pakistan

Managing Fevers in Infants and Children

<p>​When children develop a fever, it can be quite an alarming experience for parents. However, it is important to know that fevers are a common occurrence in childhood and usually are not a cause for major concern; they are often a sign that the body is fighting off an infection, which is a good thing.  
</p><p>However, it is crucial to understand how to properly monitor and care for your child during a fever.</p><p><strong>What is a Fever?</strong></p><p>A fever is a body temperature that is higher than normal and is a signal that something unusual is happening. Normal body temperature ranges from 97.5°F to 98.9°F (36.4°C to 37.2°C). Most healthcare providers consider a fever to be 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. It is important to remember that fevers are a natural response of the body&#39;s immune system to fight against infections.  
</p><p><strong>What Causes a Fever?</strong></p><p>Fevers, often misunderstood, are not standalone illnesses but rather a signal of potential trouble within the body. Contrary to common belief, a fever doesn&#39;t directly disclose the cause or confirm any specific disease. Fevers could arise from battling infections, allergic reactions, or even from heat exposure.</p><p>Other potential causes of fever in young children include immunizations (usually of short durations), inflammatory conditions, and environmental factors. </p><p><strong>How Do I Monitor My Child&#39;s Fever?</strong></p><p>The best way to diagnose your child&#39;s fever is to check the temperature with a thermometer (not just with touch).  Most thermometers today are digital, but glass thermometers containing mercury are also still in use. </p><p>Mercury is a toxic substance, dangerous to humans and the environment. Since glass thermometers are breakable, they should be disposed of properly. Generally, digital thermometers are considered safer than mercury thermometers.  </p><p>To check your child&#39;s temperature, place the mercury thermometer at the site (under the tongue or armpit) and wait for 2 minutes;  if you are using a digital thermometer, wait until it beeps.  </p><p>Note that ear thermometers can be unreliable in their readings if not used properly and are usually not recommended. </p><p><strong>How Can I Treat My Child&#39;s Fever?</strong></p><p>Most cases of fever, if not associated with any danger signs, can be easily treated at home in the following ways: </p><ul><li>Administer appropriate doses of acetaminophen (paracetamol) or ibuprofen according to the child&#39;s age and weight, as recommended by a healthcare professional(Note that switching between giving acetaminophen and ibuprofen can cause medical errors and may lead to side effects). </li><li>Ensure the child gets plenty of rest and stays well-hydrated by offering fluids like water and soup.</li><li>Dress the child in light, breathable clothing and avoid heavy blankets. </li><li>Maintain a normal room temperature. </li><li>If the fever is more than 103°F, you can sponge or bathe your child with water, along with giving medication. Alcohol rubdowns are no longer recommended.</li></ul><p><strong>When Should I Call a Doctor for a Fever?</strong></p><p>While most fevers can be treated at home, you should call a doctor immediately for the following cases:</p><ul><li>​Any fever in a baby under 3 months of age.</li><li>High, persistent fever above 104°F in children over 3 months of age.</li><li>If the fever lasts for more than 72 hours.</li><li>If the fever is associated with any danger signs, such as difficulty breathing, convulsions or seizures, extreme lethargy, severe headache, skin rash, severe sore throat, severe ear pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stiff neck, or urinary problems (burning and/or increased urgency).</li><li>If the child is not taking in enough liquids. </li><li>If the child has any chronic medical conditions, compromised immune system, or other pre-existing health issues.</li></ul><p>Although fevers might be worrying for parents and caregivers, having a thorough understanding of the situation, and effectively caring for the child can ease anxieties. Always remember to seek medical help when necessary and follow the guidance of healthcare professionals to ensure your child&#39;s well-being.

© The Aga Khan University Hospital, Pakistan