By Dr. Danielle Nixon
Reliant Medical Group Pediatrics
Medical professionals know that a fever can actually benefit sick children and adults. However, many parents become stressed and concerned when a fever hits around 102 degrees on the thermometer. There’s usually no need to worry though, as a fever is the body’s natural way of fighting off an infection.
While illness-causing microbes are able to flourish at the body’s normal temperature, a fever can raise the body’s temperature to the point where the microbes have trouble reproducing. This is an important way to fight off the infection. A fever also has other benefits for those who are sick. It can help stimulate your immune system into producing more white blood cells and antibodies as well as a protein called interferon, all which help protect against harmful organisms. So in many ways, a fever is the sign of a healthy, robust immune system.
It’s natural for parents to be concerned about a high fever in their child. However, keep in mind that the brain has an internal regulatory mechanism that prevents fevers caused by infections from getting higher than 105 or 106 degrees. A child’s body temperature must get above 108 degrees to cause damage, so even a fever of 104 degrees is not going to harm your child.
However, just because a fever can be beneficial for your child when they are sick doesn’t mean you should ignore it. High fevers (above 102 or 103 degrees) can be uncomfortable for children. Keeping them well hydrated with plenty of fluids will make them feel more comfortable. In addition, giving acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help ease the pain of being sick and also reduce the fever. (Be careful not to administer these medications too frequently or give doses that are too high. Aspirin should never be given to children or adolescents because it could lead to Reye’s syndrome, a potentially fatal liver disorder.) Keep in mind treating a fever with medication usually brings the body’s temperature down two or three degrees – not back to normal. You should not use ice packs or alcohol baths to cool your child down, these can actually have adverse effects.
Most childhood fevers are nothing to worry about. However, sometimes serious problems can develop. Here are some guidelines for children who have a fever from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Call your child’s doctor right away if your child has a fever and:
- Looks very ill, is unusually drowsy, or is very fussy
- Has been in a very hot place, such as an overheated car
- Has other symptoms, such as a stiff neck, severe headache, severe sore throat, severe ear pain, an unexplained rash, or repeated vomiting or diarrhea
- Has signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth, sunken soft spot or significantly fewer wet diapers and is not able to take in fluids
- Has immune system problems, such as sickle cell disease or cancer, or is taking steroids
- Has had a seizure
- Is younger than 3 months (12 weeks) and has a temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher
- Fever rises above 104°F (40°C) repeatedly for a child of any age
You should also call your child’s doctor if:
- Your child still “acts sick” once his fever is brought down.
- Your child seems to be getting worse.
- The fever persists for more than 24 hours in a child younger than 2 years.
- The fever persists for more than 3 days (72 hours) in a child 2 years of age or older.
About Danielle Nixon, MD
Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Danielle Nixon decided to become a pediatrician because she enjoys working with children so much each day.
Dr. Nixon has a special interest in caring for newborns and helping new parents deal with all the issues a new baby can bring. “I love to work with babies. It always seems they have a big smile on their face,” she explains. “Plus it’s very satisfying to be able to work with new...View profile View posts by this doctor