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How to treat your child's fever

  • Giving your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen: What you need to know

    Important Information

    Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are over-the-counter medicines that relieve pain and reduce fever. Ibuprofen relieves swelling but acetaminophen does not.

    To get an accurate temperature reading for newborns to one-year-olds, use only a rectal thermometer. Follow package directions.

    Your health care provider recommends treating a fever in a child younger than one year old only if he or she has a fever higher than 102 F by rectum. You should not give any form of fever-reducing or pain medicine to a child younger than one year old if you do not know his or her
    rectal temperature.

    It is important to follow your health care provider's instructions and/or the directions on the package label. Ask your health care provider if you are unsure about giving your child medicine to reduce a fever.

    Acetaminophen

    Brand names of acetaminophen include Liquiprin®, Tempra®, Little Fevers® and Children's Tylenol® Oral Suspension®.

    • Always follow your health care provider's instructions.
    • One dose of acetaminophen should last for four hours. Do not give another dose during those four hours.
    • Do not give your child more than five doses of acetaminophen in 24 hours.
    • Do not give your child more medicine than the amount recommended by your health care provider or listed on the package label.
    • Keep this and all medicines out of reach of children.
    • Do not save droppers from old bottles. Only give the dosage with the syringe or dosing tool that comes with the medicine.

    Acetaminophen dosage chart

    Find your child's weight. Follow the column that matches your child's weight to liquid or chewable tablets.

    Weight in pounds 6 to 11 12 to 17 18 to 23 24 to 35 36 to 47
    Age

    newborn to 2 years

    2 to 3 years  4 to 5 years 
    Dose (milligrams)

    40 mg

    80 mg

    120 mg

    160 mg

    240 mg

    Infant suspension (160 mg/5 mL)

    1.25 mL
    (1/4 teaspoon)

    2.5 mL
    (1/2 teaspoon)

    3.75 mL
    (3/4 teaspoon)

    5 mL
    (1 teaspoon)

    7.5 mL
    (1 and 1/2 teaspoon)

    Liquid (160 mg/5 mL)

    1.25 mL (1/4 teaspoon)

    2.5 mL (1/2 teaspoon)

    3.75 mL (3/4 teaspoon)

    5 mL (1 teaspoon)

    7.5 mL (1 and 1/2 teaspoon)

    Chewable tablets (80 mg each)

    --

    --

    --

    2 tablets

    3 tablets

    Children's chewable tablets (160 mg each)

    --

    --

    --

    1 tablet

    1 1/2 tablets

    Ibuprofen

    Brand names of ibuprofen include Advil®, Motrin® and Nuprin®. Ibuprofen is also known as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

    • Always follow your health care provider's instructions.
    • Do not give ibuprofen to a child younger than six months old. It is neither recommended nor approved.
    • One dose of ibuprofen should last six to eight hours. Do not give another dose during those six to eight hours.
    • Do not give your child more than four doses of ibuprofen in 24 hours.
    • Do not give your child more medicine than the amount recommended by your health care provider or listed on the package label.
    • Keep this and all medicines out of reach of children.
    • Do not save droppers from old bottles. Only give the dosage with the syringe or dosing tool that comes with the medicine.

    Ibuprofen dosage chart

    Find your child's weight. Follow the column that matches your child's weight to drops, liquid or chewable tablets.

    Weight in pounds 12 to 17 18 to 23 24 to 35 36 to 47
    Age

    6 to 23 months

    2 to 3 years

    4 to 5 years 
    Dose (milligrams)

    50 mg

    75 mg

    100 mg

    150 mg

    Drops (50 mg/1.25 mL)

    1.25 mL (2/3 dropper)

    1.875 mL (1 dropper)

    2.5 mL (1 and 1/3 dropper)

    3.75 mL (2 droppers)

    Liquid or suspension (100 mg/5 mL)

    --

    --

    5 mL (1 teaspoon)

    7.5 mL (1 and 1/2 teaspoon)

    Chewable tablets (50 mg each)

    --

    --

    2 tablets

    3 tablets

    Important information about aspirin

    Do not give your child aspirin or medicines that contain salicylate to treat a viral illness, unless your health care provider gives you instructions.

    These medicines put your child at risk of developing Reye's syndrome , a life-threatening brain and liver disorder.

    When To Call Your Health Care Provider

    Call your health care provider if:

    • your child is younger than two months old and has a temperature of at least 100.4 F by rectum
    • your child is two to three 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 or ibuprofen but the fever and signs of illness last for three days
    • your child breaks out in a rash
    • your child vomits

    Non-medicine treatments

    • Give your child lots of liquids. Do not force her to drink.
    • Dress your child in lightweight clothing. If your child has chills, offer her a blanket. Take off the blanket when your child feels warmer.

    What a febrile (fever) seizure means

    Important

    Call 911 if your child has trouble breathing, or if the seizure lasts more than 15 minutes.

    A febrile (fever) seizure is usually harmless. About 6 percent of children between the ages of 6 months and 6 years have a seizure with a rapidly rising fever.

    A seizure usually lasts for less than 1 minute but it can last up to 15 minutes or longer.

    Your child is possibly having a 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 seizure

    • Turn on the lights.
    • Look at the time.
    • Move your child to a soft surface. Roll your child to her side so any saliva or vomit can drain from her mouth.
    • Do not hold your child. She will thrash around. Make sure there are no objects around your child that could injure her.
    • Do not put anything in your child's mouth.
    • When the seizure is done, sweep away any saliva or vomit with a napkin or washcloth. Your child may appear to be drowsy after the seizure.
    • Call your health care provider.
    • Call 911 if your child has trouble breathing,or if the seizure lasts more than 15 minutes.
  • Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition. To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or she" and "him" or "her."
    Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic
    First published: 02/01/2010
    Last reviewed: 01/01/2016