Knowing when to seek medical attention when your child has a high fever can be a scary and confusing decision for new and seasoned parents.
Susan Scott, M.D., attending physician in the Emergency Department at Children’s Medical Center, says the first step to treating a child with a high fever is to lower the fever with an antipyretic such as ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) and encourage fluids.
The vast majority of infectious diseases that present with high fever are viral and are accompanied by coughing, congestion, vomiting or diarrhea. Fever can also accompany an ear infection or strep throat as well as less common infections such as pneumonia.
Reducing fever will not help your child get rid of the infection causing fever, but it will relieve the discomfort associated with it and allow for an opportunity to re-evaluate your child’s symptoms.
Time to Visit the Doctor
If your child’s temperature lasts longer than two to three days, or your child still feels badly even after the fever is lowered, then Dr. Scott recommends visiting the doctor that knows your child best, their primary physician.
Parents of a child younger than 3 months of age should call the health care provider immediately if their child has a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or higher.
Dr. Scott advises that the best way to get an accurate temperature reading for an infant is with a rectal thermometer. For older children, under arm, oral or tympanic thermometers are easy and accurate.
Dr. Scott completed her pediatric residency and pediatric emergency medicine fellowship at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center Dallas. She has received numerous honors and awards including the Outstanding Faculty Award from UT Southwestern Medical Center. She is a member of the Texas Pediatric Society’s Committee on Emergency Medicine.
For more on what Dr. Scott has to say about fever and children, watch Facts about Fevers When Dealing With Children on Good Morning Texas.