Treating a Child's Fever

Fever is when body temperature rises above the normal range. Normal oral temperature (taken by mouth) ranges from 97.7 F to 99.5 F.

A fever isn't harmful or dangerous unless it's very high (106 F) and lasts a long time. It's one of the ways the body defends itself against illness and fights infection.

A child's temperature can change slightly during the day, depending on the time of day and how active your child is. Usually, a child has a fever if an oral temperature is above 99.8 F or a rectal temperature is above 100.4 F.

If your child has a high fever, from 104 to 106 F, call your child's doctor's office for an appointment. After medical center hours, contact the Consulting Nurse Service.

Symptoms

Take your child's temperature when you notice any of the following:

Call your child's doctor if your child:

Any child younger than 2 months with a fever needs to be seen by a doctor.

How to Take a Child's Temperature

We recommend using a digital thermometer to take your child's temperature. It measures temperature quickly and accurately, and can be used to take both oral and rectal temperatures.

Digital thermometers come in the traditional shape (like a pen) for oral and rectal use. They are also available in a pacifier form for oral use only.

Other types of thermometers aren't as good:

Oral temperature

A normal temperature taken by mouth (oral) is 98.6 F. The range is 97 F to 99 F. Use this method for children aged 5 years and older:

Rectal temperature

A normal rectal temperature is 99.6 F. The range is 98 F to 100.4 F. This is the most accurate way to take a temperature for children younger than 5 years old. Do not use a glass thermometer for rectal temperatures.

Armpit temperature

Axillary (armpit) temperatures are usually used for infants or when older children won't cooperate or can't close their mouth due to congestion.

Treatment

To care for a child with a fever:

Your child can return to school when he or she has had no fever or symptoms for 24 hours after you have stopped treatments such as Tylenol.


Clinical review by Emily Chao, DO
Group Health
Reviewed 02/15/2012