Fever in children is usually in response to a viral or bacterial infection.  These organisms cause the body to increase the set point in the brain to make it harder for the organism to survive.  So a fever is actually an effective way for your child’s immune system to fight off an infection.

The height of a fever is not as important as the way the child looks when the fever is brought down.  Usually with a viral illness, a child will feel much better when the fever comes down.


It is not necessary to treat fever, but if your child is uncomfortable you may want to give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen.  See the Tylenol-Motrin Dosage Guide based on weight. Use the measuring dropper that comes with the medication.

There is no reason to avoid milk products when a child has a fever.

Taking your child’s temperature:

  • In infants under 3 months, a rectal temperature is best.
  • In an older child, you may want to take the temperature under the arm. Hold the thermometer there for 5 minutes, then turn it on.  This will produce a very accurate reading.  You may need to keep your child distracted while waiting.
  • The temporal artery scanner and ear thermometer can be accurate if used properly, but can also give you erroneous readings if used incorrectly.

Call our office immediately if:

  • Your child is younger than 3 months of age and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 or greater.
  • Your child has fever that is accompanied by extreme irritability.
  • Your child seems difficult to arouse or is unresponsive.

Call our office or make an appointment online if

  • Your child complains of pain in a specific joint.
  • Your child complains of pain with urination.
  • Your child has a sever headache.
  • Your child has a persistent fever

We do not routinely recommend alternating acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

 Return to the Childhood Illness Guide.