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Fever: When Should You Seek Emergency Care for Your Child?

December 12, 2019

Posted in Parenting,Flu

Cold and flu season is here! Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock and Arkansas Children's Northwest in Springdale already are seeing increases in positive flu tests, with an average of 37 children a week testing positive for flu. Fever is often the first sign of colds or flu. But not all fevers require a doctor's visit. Here are a few tips for knowing when to seek medical care and when to treat fever at home.


What is a fever?

A fever is an increase in your child's body temperature. Normal body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C). Fever is defined as a body temperature higher than 100.4°F (38°C). Anything less than that is generally no cause for alarm.

Fever is commonly caused by a virus. Your child's body uses fevers as a defense to help fight infection. The cause of your child's fever may not be known.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a normal temperature will vary with age, activity and the time of day. Infants tend to have higher temperatures than older children, and everyone’s temperature is highest between late afternoon and early evening. It’s typically lower between midnight and early morning. Below are some helpful tips on how to cope with a child’s fever. 

How to Manage Fever 

Fevers are mainly treated as a comfort measure. The pediatricians at Arkansas Children's recommend giving your child the recommended dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) for fever control. Most store-bought medicine comes with dosage recommendations.

After the medicine is given, it will take at least one hour to take effect. Even then your child’s temperature may not return to normal. This is perfectly fine! Fever fights the germs that are making your child sick. Continue to encourage your child to drink fluids and stay hydrated. Sponge baths and light clothing options are recommended. If concerned, call your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider.   

Children only need to be seen in the Emergency Department for fever if:

  • Your child is under 3 months of age and has not yet received their 2-month immunizations  
  • Your child's temperature reaches 105°F (40.6°C)  
  • Your child has a fever for longer than 5 days  
  • Your child has a dry mouth, cracked lips, or cries without tears  
  • Your child is urinating less than 3 times in a 24 hour period  
  • Your child is less alert, less active, or is acting differently than he usually does  
  • Your child has a seizure or abnormal movements of the face, arms or legs   
  • Your child has a stiff neck, severe headache, confusion or is difficult to wake  
  • Your child is crying, irritable and cannot be soothed 

Concerned about your child's symptoms? The new Arkansas Children's app has a symptom tracker to help you determine what care to seek. Download the app on iPhone or Android for help making everyday health decisions. And when your child needs care, our experts and your doctors are just one tap away.

You can also manage your child's medications, doctor's visits, and medical history wherever and whenever you need it with MyChart. Click here to sign up today.

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