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Fever's role in infections
What a fever means
A fever in infants and children can be scary, but it is common. It means your child's body is reacting to an infection.
Your child has a fever if his temperature is higher than 100.4 degrees F by rectum. A rectal temperature is most accurate for children younger than 2 years old.
The degree of fever does not always show how bad an illness may be. Children often run a higher temperature than adults for the same illness.
More important than the fever is how your child looks and acts. Watch your child for signs of illness that include:
- appetite loss and/or abdominal pain
- weakness and/or fatigue
- dry skin
- sore throat or swallowing problems
- breathing problems
- ear pain.
How to treat your child's fever
When you should call your health care provider
Call your health care provider for an appointment if:
- your child is younger than 2 months old and has a temperature of at least 100.4 F by rectum
- your child is 2 to 3 months old and has a temperature of more than 101 F by rectum and has signs of illness
- your child has a temperature higher than 104 F by rectum
- your child's fever does not go down within 24 hours
- you gave your child acetaminophen but the fever and signs of illness last for three days
- your child breaks out in a rash
- your child vomits.
Any time you think your child is ill and you are not comfortable with the way he looks or behaves, call your health care provider for an appointment.
He or she should examine your child as soon as possible, especially if your child has a fever and is unusually irritable, appears ill, has a stiff neck or has problems breathing.
How to take your child's temperature
Your health care provider recommends treating a fever in a child younger than 1 year old only if he has a fever greater than 102 F by rectum.
Mercury thermometers are no longer used because of health issues. If you have one and want to dispose of it, do not throw it in the garbage. Take your mercury thermometer, and any other products that contain mercury, to a household hazardous waste collection facility.
- Wash the thermometer in clean, warm, soapy water. Wipe it with rubbing alcohol.
- Clear the thermometer of the previous reading by following the package directions.
- Be with your child to make sure he stays still.
- Don't give your child hot or cold liquids 30 minutes before taking his temperature by mouth.
There are four ways you can take a temperature. It is important the health care provider knows which way you used.
- Coat the tip of the rectal thermometer with a lubricant (such as KY Jelly®).
- Gently insert the thermometer into your child's rectum. Do not go farther than the end of the silver tip, which is about one-quarter inch.
- Hold the thermometer in place for two to three minutes or until a digital thermometer beeps (usually 10 seconds).
A normal rectal temperature is 99.6 degrees F or 37.6 degrees C.
Always wash the thermometer after use and keep the thermometer in its original container.
If you suspect a fever, use a rectal thermometer to get an accurate temperature reading for newborns to 1 year olds. Follow the package directions.
- You may use a digital thermometer.
- Make sure your child's armpit is dry.
- Put the bulb under your child's arm, which should be snug against his body.
- Make sure the thermometer stays in place for three to four minutes or until a digital thermometer beeps (usually 10 seconds).
A normal axillary temperature is 97.6 degrees F or 36.4 degrees C.
- This is not to be used on an infant, younger than 6 months old.
- Follow the ear probe package directions carefully.
Febrile (fever) seizure
What a febrile (fever) seizure means
A febrile (fever) seizure is usually harmless. About 6 percent of children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years have a seizure with a high fever (usually higher than 102 degrees F).
A seizure usually lasts for five minutes but it can last up to 10 minutes. It does not cause brain damage.
Your child is having a febrile seizure if:
- her eyes roll upward
- her arms are flexed and legs are straight or if there is a rhythmic jerking of arms and legs.
What to do if your child has a febrile seizure
- Turn on the lights.
- Look at the time.
- Move your child to a soft surface. Roll your child to her stomach or side.
- Do not hold your child. She will thrash around. Make sure there are no objects around your child that could injure her.
- Keep your child's airway open. If you see something in your child's mouth, sweep it out with your finger(s). If your child vomits, make sure to keep her mouth clear. Your child cannot "swallow" her tongue, but you can make breathing easier by grasping the angle of the jaw and moving it forward. Do not put anything in your child's mouth.
- If your child stops breathing for more than 10 seconds, give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Do not try to give mouth-to-mouth if your child stops breathing for less than 10 seconds.
- When the seizure is done, sweep away any saliva or vomit with a napkin or washcloth. Your child will appear to be in a deep sleep after the seizure for about one hour.