Health

How to Bring Down a Fever in a Child

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It’s scary when your child gets sick. It’s especially scary when your child feels piping hot and is clearly suffering from a fever. Are you wondering how to bring down a fever in a child? You’re not alone.

Fever is a common symptom in children of all ages who are fighting off infections. Here are some tips for how  to treat a fever in a child, as well as other fever-related information that’s important to know as you nurse your sick child.

You probably learned somewhere along the way that 98.6 degrees is the normal temperature of the human body. While that’s true, there’s really more of a range than a specific “normal” temperature. Anything between 97.7 degrees and 99.5 degrees should be considered “normal.” If a thermometer shows that your child is 99.5 degrees or cooler, that’s not really a temperature at all.

 

Fever Symptoms in a Child

The first thing most parents notice in a feverish child is the heat. Put your hand to your child’s forehead, and you’ll notice immediately that he or she is warmer than normal.

But here’s a tip: Simply feeling your child’s head is not an accurate measure of temperature and does not confirm a fever.

Look for other symptoms, too. Common symptoms associated with a fever include:

  • Irritability and low energy
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • General pain
  • Unusual breathing
  • Sweating
  • Paleness
  • Redness
  • Rash development
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat

If your child feels warm and it also experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, there’s a good chance your child is suffering from a fever. Now it’s time to measure and make sure.

 

How to Take a Child’s Temperature

If you have one child and certainly if you have more than one child, consider investing in a digital thermometer. They are easy to find, relatively affordable and among the most accurate temperature-measuring devices you can use.

If you have an old-school glass thermometer, it needs to be thrown away safely. They are no longer used because they can break and allow dangerous mercury to escape. Call your city’s waste management department for guidance on where you can safely dispose of a glass thermometer.

You may also encounter ear thermometers, which are prohibitively expensive, as well as fever tapes, which do not provide accurate readings. Again, your best bet is a digital thermometer.

 

Oral vs. Rectal Temperatures

Digital thermometers can be used either orally or rectally. Just know that the “normal” ranges are different depending on where you take a temperature.

  • For oral measurements, the range is generally 97 to 99 degrees.
  • For rectal measurements, the range is just a bit higher — generally 98 to 100.4 degrees.

Oral measurements are best for children 5 and older.

Rectal measurements are best for children younger than 5.

 

Tips: How to Reduce Fever in Child

When your child is running a fever, you want to do something about it. Thankfully, there are several ways to help. Here’s a look at 4 things you can do when wondering how to reduce fever in child:

1. Medicate

Infants between 2 and 6 months can take Tylenol (or generic forms of acetaminophen), but it’s always a good idea to let your doctor know when medicating a baby that young — even over-the-counter medications. Children 6 months and older can take either Tylenol or ibuprofen. Never give anyone younger than 20 aspirin.

And here’s one last tip on medication: Only medicate if the fever is higher than 102 degrees. Anything less than 102 should dissipate quickly without help from medication.

2. Stay Hydrated

Encourage your child to drink a lot of clear, cool liquids. Water is great, obviously, but so too is fruit juice, Gatorade and Pedialyte. You can also have a little fun with it by having popsicles.

Keep an eye out for signs of dehydration, which is a greater threat when a child is running a fever. Babies should have at least 6 wet diapers a day, and kids who are older should be urinated at least 3 times a day. If your child is falling short of those numbers, hydrate more.

3. Keep Cool

Don’t bundle up your child in lots of clothes, and don’t bury him or her under a pile of blankets. You want the heat related to fever to escape your child’s body, so do whatever you can to keep him or her cool.

4. Take Baths

A bath always helps, too, but here’s the twist: A fever bath shouldn’t be too hot or too cold. In fact, a tepid or even room temperature bath works best to help lower a fever.

 

What to Feed a Child With Fever

It can be hard enough to get your child to eat when he or she is perfectly healthy. That said, if you want some ideas for what to feed a child with fever, consider the following:

What to Feed a Child of 6 to 12 Months:

  • Formula or breast milk
  • Popsicles
  • Warm soup
  • Fruit/vegetable puree

What to Feed a Child of 1 to 3 Years:

  • Bananas
  • Applesauce
  • Rice
  • Toast
  • Cereal
  • Chicken soup

You may see some of the items listed above and roll your eyes. “My child isn’t going to eat soup!” Hey, same for me. But these are just a few ideas you can try. So give one a shot and see if it helps.

 

Should I Let My Child Sleep With a Fever?

There’s nothing inherently bad about a child sleep with a fever. Make sure you treat the fever as outlined above, but then try to encourage your child to sleep like he or she normally would.

You may find that your child struggles to fall asleep or stay asleep. After all, a fever is an indication that the body is fighting an infection, so it’s only natural that sleep would be more challenging than usual. Also, it’s not uncommon for fevers to spike at night — but those spikes can make it more difficult of a child to get rest.

 

When to Take Child to Doctor for Fever

There are cases that require a visit to a doctor. The problem for parents is knowing when that line has been crossed. If you’re wondering when to take child to doctor for fever, here’s what you’re looking for:

  • Anytime a fever lasts 3 days or longer
  • Anytime a child can’t stay hydrated (vomiting, diarrhea, etc.)
  • Anytime a baby under 2 months is running a fever
  • Anytime a baby between 3 and 6 months is running a fever of 102 or higher
  • Anytime a child has a temperature of 104 or higher

A fever isn’t a real threat to your child until it reaches 106 degrees. Yes, follow the guidance in the bullets above for temperatures less than 104 degrees, but don’t become overly worried. If your child is running a fever of 106 of higher, call your doctor immediately — or visit an emergency room if it’s after hours.

 

Final Thoughts on How to Bring Down a Fever in a Child

That’s a lot of info on fevers in children. But there’s one more thing you need to know about: when your child can return to school after a fever.

Here’s the best rule of thumb: Wait 24 hours after your child has been fever-free without treatment. So, if you’re keeping the fever down with medication, the 24-hour window hasn’t started yet. You need to wait until your child has gone a full, fever-free day without the help of medication.

You might have a different tip for how to bring down a fever in a child. Let us know in the comments section below, or send us a message using our contact page.

Brad has spent the bulk of his life in Austin, TX, minus just a few years traveling the country and writing for local newspapers. When he isn’t spending time with his wonderful family, Brad is likely to be found watching a ballgame, reading a book or taking a well-earned nap.

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