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Fever 101

It may still be warm in Arkansas, but cold and flu season is right around the corner. In fact, the Emergency Department at Arkansas Children’s Hospital already has its first confirmed case of flu. With colds and flu comes fever. Here are a few tips for knowing when to seek medical care and how 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 greater than 100.4°F (38°C).  

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 the American Academy of Pediatrics, a normal temperature will vary with age, activity and the time of day.  Infants tend to have higher temperature 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. We 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 normal! Fever fights whatever germs are making your child sick. Continue to encourage your child to drink fluids and stay hydrated while feeling sick. Sponge baths and light clothing options are recommended. If concerned, please call the office of your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider.   

Children will 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 
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