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Fever

What is it?

Fever is a symptom not an illness, it is your body's way of fighting off disease. Normal body temperature for adults and children range from 97 to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature of greater than 100 degrees orally or 100.4 degrees rectally indicates a fever is present. Fevers can be caused by viral or bacterial infections or by nonmedical reasons such as exercising, wearing warm clothing, or extended crying by a baby.

Who is affected?

Having a fever is one of the most common conditions your child can have. However, fevers in and of themselves are not a bad thing - it means the body is working to fight off an infection. Brain damage is not a risk until the temperature exceeds 106.5.

What are the symptoms?

The following symptoms may indicate a fever.

  • Flushed skin/face
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dry, hot skin (warm to the touch)
  • Sleepiness
  • Unusual breathing or cold symptoms
  • Poor appetite
If the symptoms are making the child feel ill consider treating the fever. If the fever itself is not making the child uncomfortable it does not need to be treated.

What can I do to prevent and treat it?

To prevent fevers, reduce your child's exposure to bacterial infections and viruses by:

  • Making sure your children wash their hands frequently
  • Teaching your kids to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze and then washing their hands
  • Not sharing eating utensils
  • Avoiding exposure to other children with colds (keep your child at home if they have a cold)
  • Keeping toys and surfaces clean with a mild disinfectant
  • Ensuring that children between six and 23 months old get a flu shot each fall
  • Make sure your child gets all recommended vaccinations

If your child has a fever:

  • You do not need to treat a fever with medication unless your child is symptomatic
  • Sponge them down with a warm washcloth or give them a luke warm bath (not a cold bath or an alcohol bath)
  • Dress them in light clothing
  • Make sure they get plenty of liquids such as broth, juice, ice pops, or water (more information on rehydration
  • Do not cover your child up
  • Do not wake your child to give them medication
  • Your child should rest but it is not necessary that he or she does lie down

Important additional information

Contact a health care professional if any of the following occur:

  • A temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher in an infant less than three months old
  • A temperature of 101 degrees or higher in a child aged three to six months
  • A temperature of 104 degrees or higher for more than 24 hours in a child ages six months or older
  • Fever is accompanied by vomiting, severe headache, sleeplessness, or lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Changes in color of complexion or development of reddish - purple spots on the skin
  • A stiff neck
  • Cries inconsolably, looks or acts very sick, has diarrhea, has signs of dehydration or refuses to drink
  • Has sickle cell anemia
  • Appears to be getting worse
  • History of febrile seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions
The amount of medicine your child should receive is based on your child's weight or age. Always read the package for dosing information or ask a pharmacist or a health care provider.

The following are examples of over-the-counter (OTC) medications that can be used to treat the symptoms of a fever:

Symptom relief Helpful medications Active ingredients* to look for in generic and name brand OTC products
Reduce fever and pain Pain reliever
Fever reducer

Ibuprofen
Example: Children's Advil®
(Drops are indicated for children 6 to 23 months. Pills are indicated for children two years old and older. For treating children under the age of six months consult a health care provider.)

Acetaminophen
(Indicted for children two years old or older. Children less than 6 years old should receive liquid form. For treating children under the age of two consult a health care provider.)


Sources:

1National Eczema Association for Science and Education www.nationaleczema.org

Note: This information is intended to provide readers with health information. The information provided is not a substitute for consultation with a healthcare provider. Brand names included on this Web page are provided for examples only. Their inclusion does not mean that they are endorsed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

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