Fever in Children

How do you know when your child has a fever?

•  Your child’s chest or forehead may feel hot.

•  He or she may sweat or feel sick.

•  Your child’s temperature is:

– Higher than 99.5ºF by mouth or ear. (Higher than 100.5ºF with a pacifier thermometer.)

– Higher than 100.4ºF by rectum.

– Higher than 89.5ºF under the armpit.

Signs, Symptoms & Causes

Fever is a sign of another problem. Your child may have an infection. Exercise, hot weather, and shots like DTaP and MMR can also make your child’s temperature go up.


A thermometer measures temperature. There are many kinds of thermometers:

•  Pacifier thermometers. These are for children 3 months old to 2 years old.

•  Digital thermometers run on batteries. They are good and work in less than 30 seconds. (Make sure the batteries are good.)

•  Temperature strips go on the forehead. They are easy to use, but do not give a good temperature reading.

•  Ear thermometers work in 2 seconds or less. They are as good as oral thermometers, but they cost more.

You may not need to treat your child’s fever if it isn’t high and he or she feels O.K. But you should treat your child’s fever if it is high and your child feels bad or the fever makes it hard for your child to drink, eat, sleep, or do normal things.


You can take your child’s temperature by mouth, armpit, ear, or rectum. (The rectum is the opening where you pass solid waste.) A rectal reading is better than a mouth reading. It is 1°F higher than a mouth reading. An armpit reading is 1°F lower than a mouth reading, but does not give as good a reading.

Questions to Ask


•  Make sure your child drinks a lot of fluids. Give fruit juice, water, and other cool drinks.

•  Dress your child in light clothing.

•  Have your child rest.

•  For a high fever, sponge your child with warm (not cold or cool) water. Don’t use rubbing alcohol. Don’t let your child shower. Showering can make the fever go up.

•  Give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Make sure you give the right kind and dose for his or her weight. (Note: Do not give aspirin. Aspirin and other medicines that have salicylates have been linked to Reye’s Syndrome.)

•  A fever can occur with other health problems. They include:

– Chickenpox.

– Coughs.

– Croup.

– Cuts, Scrapes & Punctures.

– Diarrhea.

– Earaches.

– Flu.

– Headaches.

– Seizures.

– Sore Throats.

– Swollen Glands.

– Wheezing.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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