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Your Child's Fever

by Lylan Park, MD, St. Luke's Pediatric Associates

Fever is the natural response by your child’s immune system to an infection. A fever does not always need to be treated with medications.

As a pediatrician, I receive many phone calls in the middle of the night from parents concerned about their child’s fever. This column reminds parents that a fever is generally harmless and is helping your child get better.

When you child has an infection, such as the common cold, an ear infection, or a urinary tract infection, the body will often respond by developing a fever. This is a good sign that your child’s immune system is working to fight the virus or bacteria causing the infection.

Treating a fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen may not always be needed if your child is acting well and taking fluids.

The reason to treat a fever is to help your child feel more comfortable and stay interested in taking fluids. In cases of a fever higher than 104 degrees, you may sponge your child with lukewarm water but not cold water. I generally do not recommend placing your child in a cold bath because this will cause your child to shiver and become agitated thus increasing the child’s body temperature. In most cases, if the appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen is given, you do not need to alternate these drugs.

It is highly recommended that you seek medical assistance if your child has a fever and is unusually irritable, has symptoms of severe headache, stiff neck, repeated vomiting, unexplained rash, or abdominal pain.

You, as a parent, know your child better than anyone else. If you feel that something is seriously wrong, whether your child has a fever or not, call your pediatrician immediately.

The above information is general in nature and may not apply in every case. If you have any concerns about the health of your child, contact your doctor for advice and information specific to your child.

Health Education
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