What is a fever?
A fever is defined by most
healthcare providers as a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) and higher when taken
The body has several ways to maintain normal body temperature. The organs involved in helping with temperature regulation include the brain, skin, muscle, and blood vessels. The body responds to changes in temperature by:
Increasing or decreasing
Moving blood away from, or
closer to, the surface of the skin
Getting rid of, or holding on
to, water in the body
Seeking a cooler or warmer
When your child has a fever, the
body works the same way to control the temperature. But it has temporarily reset its
thermostat at a higher temperature. The temperature increases for a number of
Chemicals, called cytokines and mediators, are made in the body in response to an invasion from a microorganism, malignancy, or other intruder.
The body is making more
macrophages. These are cells that go to combat when intruders are present in the
body. These cells actually "eat-up" the invading organism.
The body is busy trying to
make natural antibodies, which fight infection. These antibodies will recognize
the infection next time it tries to invade.
Many bacteria are enclosed in
an overcoat-like membrane. When this membrane is disrupted or broken, the contents
that escape can be toxic to the body. They stimulate the brain to raise the
What conditions can cause a fever?
These conditions can cause a
Disorders in the brain
Some kinds of cancer
Some autoimmune diseases
What are the benefits of a fever?
Fever is not an illness. It is a
symptom, or sign, that your body is fighting an illness or infection. Fever stimulates
the body's defenses, sending white blood cells and other "fighter" cells to fight and
destroy the cause of the infection.
What are the symptoms that my child may have a fever?
Children with fevers may become
more uncomfortable as the temperature rises. Along with a body temperature greater than
100.4°F (38°C), symptoms may include:
Your child may not be as active or talkative as usual.
Your child may seem fussier,
less hungry, and thirstier.
Your child may feel warm or hot. Remember that even if your child feels like he or she is "burning up," the measured temperature may not be that high.
The symptoms of a fever may look
like other health conditions. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if your
child is younger than 3 months of age and has a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher,
you should call your child's healthcare provider right away. If you are unsure,
always check with your child's healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
When should a fever be treated?
In children, a fever that is making
them uncomfortable should be treated. Treating your child's fever will not help the body
get rid of the infection any faster. It simply will relieve discomfort linked to the
fever. Children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years can develop seizures from fever
(called febrile seizures). If your child does have a febrile seizure, there is a chance
that the seizure may occur again. But usually children outgrow the febrile seizures. A
febrile seizure does not mean your child has epilepsy. There is no evidence that
treating the fever will reduce the risk of having a febrile seizure.
What can I do to decrease my child's fever?
Give your child an antifever
medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. DON'T give your child aspirin. It has been linked to a
serious, potentially fatal disease, called Reye syndrome.
Other ways to reduce a fever:
Dress your child lightly. Excess clothing will trap body heat and cause the temperature to rise.
Encourage your child to drink
plenty of fluids, such as water, juices, or popsicles.
Give your child a lukewarm
bath. Do not allow your child to shiver from cold water. It can raise the body
temperature. Never leave your
child unattended in the bathtub.
use alcohol baths.
When should I call my child's healthcare provider?
Unless advised otherwise by your child’s healthcare provider, call the provider right away if:
Your child is 3 months old or younger and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. Get medical care right away. Fever in a young baby can be a sign of a dangerous infection.
Your child is of any age and has repeated fevers above 104°F (40°C).
Your child is younger than 2
years of age and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) that lasts for more than 1 day.
Your child is age 2 or older
and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) that lasts for more than 3 days.
Your baby is fussy or cries
and can't be soothed.