Fever in Children
This information is about taking a child’s temperature and fever in children. It covers what a fever in kids is and what to do about fever in children.
Fever is a symptom, it is not a disease by itself. A child can have a fever from something as simple as a cold or something as complex as severe pneumonia.
In children, especially young ones, normal temperature varies. For a child under three years old, a normal rectal temperature may range from 97 to 100 degrees. For children over four years of age, a normal oral temperature varies from 96 to 99 degrees. Children’s temperatures vary depending on the time of the day, the temperature of the room, the weather, the amount of clothing the child is wearing, and what the child has been doing. Always dresschildren so that they are comfortable and can move easily, overdressing will increase their temperature. As a rule of thumb, a temperature isa fever if it is over 101 degrees rectally or 100 degrees orally after the child has been at rest for a while.
Children can develop a fever for many reasons. A fever may be a sign of a cold, or a reaction to a recent immunization. One of the most common causes of fever is infection. Children get frequent viral infections during the first five or six years of life.
If you suspect a fever, take your child’s temperature. Don’t rely on feeling the child’s forehead. The thermometer is more accurate than your hand. There are two types of thermometers. The rectal one has a stubby and rounded silver end. The oralthermometer – silver tip is thin and long.
NOTE: NOT ALL DOCTORS RECOMMEND TAKING A RECTAL TEMPERATURE! THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS FOR EDUCATION ONLY AND SHOULD NOT REPLACE THE ADVICE OF YOUR CHILD’S DOCTOR: YOU SHOULD TALK WITH YOUR CHILD’S DOCTOR BEFORE TAKING ARECTAL TEMPERATURE.
For children up to about three years old, take the temperature rectally. Lay a baby on its stomach, across your knees. An older child can lie on one side with the knees drawn up slightly. Lubricate thethermometer tip with a little Vaseline or other water-soluble lubricant. Then insert the thermometer gently about half an inch into the rectum. Don’t hold the thermometer — this could hurt if the child moves. Instead, lay your hand across the buttocks and support the thermometer between two fingers. Leave it in for three minutes, to get an accurate reading.
When your child is three years old, try an oral thermometer — but don’t pressure the child if he or she resists or tries to bite it. Instead, place the thermometer under the arm and take the temperature. This is called taking the axillary temperature.
Using a dry armpit, place the silver end of either type of thermometer under the child’s armpit and hold the arm tightly against the body. After five minutes read the temperature.
If your child has fever over 100 degrees orally (or axillary) or 101 degrees rectally evaluate your child. If your child seems happy and content and has no specific complaints, there is no need to be alarmed. Most higher fevers do not cause any damage.
Some small children have fever convulsions related to rapid increase in temperature. These are very rare and normally occur before you ever know your child has a temperature. Fever convulsions do not cause any harm, however they can be quite frightening, especially the first time. Remember to stay calm and call the advice nurse immediately.
Treat fevers only if they seem to be causing discomfort. To treat fever, give acetaminophen or brand name products like Tylenol or Panydol. Follow label directions carefully. And do not give a child aspirin or aspirin products. Aspirin has been associated with an illness called Reye’s Syndrome in children under nineteen years of age.
Dress your child lightly, to help body heat escape. Do not bundle up a feverish child and try to “sweat the fever out”.
Always call your pediatrician if your child is less than five months old and has a fever over 101 degrees, or if the fever is present longer than 3 days. You should also call if the fever is accompanied by other symptoms like a bad cough, earache, sore throat, stiff neck or congestion; if there is frequent urination or discolored urine; or if your child has abdominal pain. And, regardless of the temperature level, call if your child looks quite ill.
When you call the pediatrician be ready to give your child’s present temperature and how it was taken orally, rectally or under the arm.
Please remember these key points about children’s temperature:
- Fever is only a symptom , not a disease in itself.
- A temperature is a fever if it is over 101 degrees rectally or 100 degrees orally.
- For children under three, take the temperature rectally.
- Treat the fever with Tylenol or similar products.
- Do not give your child aspirin or products that contain aspirin.
- If the fever lasts longer than 3 days, if other symptoms develop, or if your child acts ill, call your pediatrician.