Short Answer:  You probably don’t need to see a doctor unless your child’s temperature is over 104F,  they display other symptoms, or your child is under 3 months of age… in which case a doctor visit is recommended. Read on for more details of what to do when your child has a fever, including treatments you can do at home.

Fever Basics

Fevers can be scary for parents! Particularly if it’s the first time your child has had one. But the truth is, every child will experience a fever at some point in their young lives, and it’s not as scary as you might think.

Fever is an indication that your child’s immune system is functioning properly. A fever is actually a good sign; it means your child’s body is working to fight off infection and in most cases it’s part of a natural bodily response that should be allowed to continue.

When dealing with a fever, it’s important to note (and this may go against what grandma taught you) that there is not one magic number on the thermometer that means take your child to the ER. Your child’s actual temperature is just one symptom of their illness. It’s their overall health and condition that determines when you need to seek medical attention.

But your child’s temperature is still an important clue, so try to get an accurate read. Take an oral temp when possible, or a rectal one when not, and keep in mind ear, sticker, pacifier and temporal artery thermometers are not as accurate as a good old-fashioned digital thermometer.

When To See A Doctor:

  • Your child is under three months of age and has a fever over 100.4. Fevers in a child this young may be the only sign of a very serious illness.
  • Your child exhibits signs of respiratory distress. If they’re having trouble breathing, get them seen immediately or call 911.
  • Has a fever over 104F, particularly if your child displays other symptoms.
  • Child has any type of fever for more than five consecutive days.
  • Your child is not behaving normally; they are listless, not able to take fluids, or complain of a stiff neck or sensitivity to light.
  • Child’s temperature is above 102 F and they were recently immunized.
  • Your child also complains of pain, such as a sore ear or throat, abdominal pain, or painful urination.
  • Your mother’s intuition tells you something more serious is going on.

 Fever Treatments For Children

 

What A Doc Says:

  • In general, you should focus on the way your child looks, feels, and acts rather than on what the thermometer says. If you have to wrestle them to the ground to give them medicine, they probably don’t need it.
  • If you want your child to be seen by your doctor because they are uncomfortable, give them a fever-reducing medication prior. A comfortable child is easier to treat.
  • Use fever reducers to treat your kids at home.  For kids under 6 months, infant acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) is the only recommended fever reducer. Older babies and kids can also take children’s ibuprofen (such as Motrin or Advil), which is more effective at fighting fever but also somewhat more likely to cause stomach irritation.
  • Be sure to read the label and give your child the correct dosage! Dose medications according to your child’s weight, not their age. 
  • If you ever have any questions about your child’s dosage or medication, call your pediatrician.

What A Mom Says:

  • Give your child lots of fluids to ward off dehydration and flush out their system.
  • Give them bone broths and homemade soups to heal and nourish.
  • Try apple cider vinegar (an old grandmother endorsed remedy) that is thought to “draw out” the fever. Soak a couple washcloths in diluted apple cider vinegar (1 part vinegar and 2 parts water), then place them on the forehead and tummy.
  • Place them in a warm bath. A cold bath shocks the body into raising the internal thermostat even more, but a warm bath may be helpful, especially when a cup of apple cider vinegar is mixed in.

What A Naturopath Says:

  • Try making herbal freezer pops to support immune function and keep a child hydrated. Get the recipe here.
  • Peppermint tea can help if there are head/muscle aches associated with the fever.
  • Mix small doses of coconut oil into food or smoothies for its antibacterial and antiviral properties.
  • Try homemade elderberry syrup to boost immune function and make the sick child more comfortable. Here’s a recipe to make your own.