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Handling a Fever

Reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
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Parents might worry when a child's temperature rises, but a fever itself causes no harm and can actually be a good thing — often, it's the body's way of fighting infections.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of a Fever?

A child who has a fever might be:

  • fussy
  • uncomfortable
  • warm to the touch
  • flushed
  • sweaty

What to Do

Call the doctor’s office if your baby is younger than 3 months old with a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. If you can’t reach the doctor, go to the ER.

It's best to keep a child with a fever home from school or childcare until their temperature has been normal for at least 24 hours. If your child is uncomfortable, here are some ways to ease symptoms:

  • Offer plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration.
  • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen based on the doctor's recommendations. Do not give aspirin to your child or teen as it's linked to a rare but serious illness called Reye syndrome.
  • Never use rubbing alcohol or cold baths to bring the fever down.
  • Dress your child in lightweight clothing and cover with a light sheet or blanket.
  • Let your child eat what they want, but don't force it if your child doesn't feel like eating.
  • If your child also is vomiting and/or has diarrhea, ask the doctor if you should give a children's oral rehydration solution (also called oral electrolyte solution or oral electrolyte maintenance solution).
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.

Get Medical Care if:

  • your baby is younger than 3 months old has a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
  • an older child has a fever and:
    • looks sick
    • develops a rash
    • has lasting diarrhea and/or repeated vomiting
    • has signs of dehydration (peeing less than usual, not having tears when crying, less alert and less active than usual)
    • has a fever for 5 days
    • has a medical problem like sickle cell disease or cancer

Think Prevention!

All kids get a fever from time to time, and in most cases they're back to normal within a few days. The key is to make your child as comfortable as possible until the fever passes, and get medical care when needed.

Reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
Date reviewed: December 2022