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Fever in Kids
Kelly Ochoa, MD
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What Temperature Is a Fever?
My child has a FEVER of 104°F, what should I do? FEVER. It is such an anxiety provoking term in a parent’s vocabulary. Fever is considered a body temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or above. A temperature of 99°F can be completely normal, especially if taken in the evening when body temperatures naturally rise. Fever itself is not actually dangerous at all*. Fever is part of your body’s response to fighting an infection. When fighting an infection, your body will not produce a temperature high enough to cause brain or organ damage. Yes, even a temperature of 104°F is safe, it may be miserable, but not dangerous. The body’s temperature needs to be above 108°F to cause brain damage. Your body typically does not cause fever above 104°F, and rarely slightly above 104°F in response to some infections (such as infection from the seasonal influenza virus, which often causes very high fevers).
What Temperature is Too High For My Baby?
The Actual Number is Not Important
The reason we treat a fever is only to make your child feel better. If your child has a temperature of 102°F, but is running around happily, there is no need to force fever medicine down your child. Alternatively, if your child has a temp of 100.4°F, but is miserable and tired, go ahead, a dose of fever medicine will help perk him or her up. Click HERE for our dosing calculator for acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and HERE if you would like to read more about these wonderful medications. Medicine will help the fever come down, but it will not treat the infection. Therefore, it is expected and completely normal to spike another fever once the medicine wears off, as your body is still fighting the infection. It is normal for fevers with viral infections to last 2-3 days, and sometimes longer. The height of the fever, or inability to “break” the fever, does not necessarily correlate with how serious the infection is; A temperature of 104°F may be caused by a mild virus that will resolve on its own, or it could be a more serious bacterial infection. How ill a child acts after treating the fever, along with how young the child is are more indicative of how serious the infection could be than the actual height of the fever. Children younger than 3 months old should always see their doctor if they have a fever to ensure it is not a serious bacterial infection.
Febrile Seizures – Scary To Witness, but Typically Not Dangerous
You may have heard of seizures from fevers. This is true, some children have seizures with fevers. Although scary to see, these seizures are typically short lived lasting less than 5 minutes (usually much less), and do not cause any permanent damage. They do not cause brain damage, learning delays, or increase a child’s risk of developing a life-long seizure disorder. If you want to learn more about febrile seizures, read my Health-e Tips article specifically on this topic.
Fever Is Our Friend
Hopefully now you feel a bit better about fevers. Fevers are on our team, they are the good guys! They help our body fight off infections, the bad guys. The reason for the fever, the infection, is typically viral or bacterial in children. Your doctor can help determine what condition is causing your child to have a fever, and can determine if antibiotics, or other treatments, are necessary.
Need Help Dosing Your Child With Fever Medicine? Use Our Calculator HERE.
We Are Talking About Fevers Caused by Infection, Not By Medication or External Sources
*There are times your body has a fever due to medications or an extreme external temperature (trapped in a car in the hot desert, for example). These CAN be dangerous and are not self-generated by your body fighting an infection. These are not the type of fever we are talking about here in this article.