Health Tips - Fever in Children
Fever in Children
A fever is the body’s normal response to infection and inflammation. Having a fever in and of itself kills many pathogenic organisms but it also releases factors needed to mount a healthy response. Kids are going to get fevers! They get them a lot more than adults because their immune system seeing a lot of 'new' things that it is reacting to. This is a good thing and will help your child grow up to have a strong immune system. The challenge is to know when to be concerned!
A fever is an oral temperature over 99.8 F or rectal temperature of about 100.4 F (38 C). Keep in mind that many digital thermometers today convert oral to a rectal equivalent temperature, so check your thermometer to see which it is set to.
Fevers are healthy and help the person fight an infection. A child’s care provider should call a doctor if a child over 6 months old has a fever over 104 F (rectal equivalent). Fevers are not considered dangerous until over 106 F for a long period of time.
The Helpful Fever
Five functions of a fever:
- Thermal effect - increased temperature directly kills pathogens
- Metabolism is increased - this aids in removing wastes from the body
- Breathing and pulse rate are increased - brings more clean blood to infected areas
- Capacity to react is increased - immune cells are activated
- Direct action on the liver - to increase filtration rate and remove wastes
Is a Fever Harmful?
Fevers have been reported up to 106.7 F without any harm to the person with the fever. Even febrile seizures, which are scary for parents and care providers, haven't shown and lasting negative effects. If there is a sudden rise in temperature, rather than gradual, the body may not have had time to put protective measures into place like the protective action of releasing calcium from bone to protect the brain, and cause of bone/body pains during an illness. If this happens, then there is an increased risk of the child developing a a negative sequela from the fever. Contact your ND or MD if this happens.
Signs of a Fever
Take your child's temperature when you notice any of the following:
- Excessive sweating.
- Dry, hot skin.
- A rash.
- Very pale or very red face.
- Breathing is unusually fast, slow, noisy, or strained.
- Cold symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, hoarseness, or sore throat.
- Mood changes, such as crankiness, not interested in favorite toys, low energy.
- Your child says, "I feel sick."
- Vomiting or diarrhea.
- Pain in any part of your child's body.
Teething can cause a slight fever, but rarely goes above 100.4 F if it's teething alone.
What can you do?
There are many options for managing a child with a fever. Children with fevers who aren't uncomfortable don't need treatment. Their bodies are doing exactly what they should be doing. You may want to treat your child if they are uncomfortable. However, fevers are usually caused by infection and decreasing the fever with strong fever-lowering medication may prolong the illness! We do not recommend using NSAID or acetaminophen based fever-lowering medications unless directed by us or another doctor.
- Make sure you keep the child hydrated: breast feeding, soups, smoothies, popsicles, teas (catnip, peppermint, yarrow, elderberry) and avoid salt.
- Homemade veggie and chicken soup is an excellent way to stay hydrated-add rosemary, thyme, ginger, garlic and sage for an infection fighting boost.
- Avoid sugar which can depresses the immune system.
- Make time for rest.
- Use magic socks (cold wet socks, wrung out well with thick wool socks on top-go to sleep with these on!)
- Keep a homeopathic kit, including Belladona and Ferrum Phos, on hand for fevers.
Call a doctor if your child…
- Has a rectal equivalent temperature over 99° F younger than 3 months.
- Any child younger than 2 months with a fever needs to be seen by a doctor.
- Has a rectal equivalent temperature of 102° F or higher and is 3 to 6 months old.
- Has a rectal equivalent temperature over 104° F and is older than 6 months.
- Has a fever that lasts longer than 4 days.
- Has diarrhea or vomiting and can't keep fluids down.
- If you are unsure about anything, call your doctor!
For more information:
- Seattle Children’s Hospital:
* These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Talk to your doctor if you think these treatments might be right for you.