Kelli Shidler, M.D.
A fever occurs when your child’s body temperature is elevated. Pediatricians diagnose a fever when the temperature is above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. A fever is a symptom, not a disease. It is the body's normal response when fighting an illness or an infection. Most fevers are caused by a viral illness, such as the common cold. Some are caused by bacterial illnesses, such as strep throat or an ear infection. Fevers are generally harmless. They are considered a good sign that your child’s immune system is working and the body is trying to heal itself.
Normal body temperature varies with age, activity level, and the time of day. Children’s temperature is highest between late afternoon and early evening, and lowest between midnight and early morning. When children have a fever, they may feel warm, breathe faster than usual, shiver, appear flushed or sweat more than usual. They may also be more thirsty than normal. Some children feel fine when they have a fever and continue to be active and playful.
A fever cannot always be detected by feeling your child’s forehead. Use a thermometer to take the temperature.
Digital thermometers are recommended to check your child’s temperature. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to remove mercury thermometers from their homes to prevent accidental exposure and poisoning.
While other methods for taking your child’s temperature are available, such as pacifier thermometers or fever strips, they are not recommended at this time.
While a fever is never pleasant for a child, there are steps you can take to help your child during their illness.
Most fevers may be easily treated at home. However, Boys Town Pediatrics recommends calling your doctor if: