When to Call a Doctor for Fever: Child Fever Medicine

When to Call a Doctor for Fever

I’m not a doctor, but I play one on the Internet. Actually, that’s not true at all, but it does illustrate a concern you should have. Be careful where you get medical advice. Before taking medical advice from somebody on the Internet, know their credentials. I want to be upfront right now. I am not a doctor, and I do not have any medical training. I do have several degrees, but none of them are in medicine. I have studied both medicine and nutrition but not formally. I believe that the information contained in this article is valid, because it did come from a doctor, not me. Ultimately, I encourage you to consult a physician for medical advice.

My daughter always seems to get ill Sunday night. I’m always concerned to put her to bed, because I’ve heard stories about temperatures spiking in the middle of the night. Do you remember being put in a cold bath? I do, and my daughter does too. Unfortunately, we all tend to go by what we’ve been taught, and that’s not always what’s considered best now days.

My daughter has had several high temperatures over the years, and this has prompted me to do a significant amount of research. I’ve spoken to doctors, researched the Internet, and read many books on the subject. What I’ve found is that there are some underlying consistencies and inconsistencies. It’s hard to get a definitive answer about what you should do when your child has a high temperature. Having recently taken my daughter to the emergency room for a very high temperature, I can tell you that I decided to press the issue and get a definitive answer about what to do when my daughter has a fever. I asked the doctor for this definitive answer, and she gave it to me. I’m passing this information on to the public, because I don’t want you to go through what my family went through.

I do have a word of caution before I begin. Again, I am not a doctor. I want to encourage you to consult your child’s doctor regularly and when your child has a medical need. Here’s where I get to sound like a lawyer. This site is not intended to take the place of a physician. Consult a physician or a pharmacist before administering any medication to your child or undergoing any home treatment. Safety first!

What Temperature is a Fever?

Vigorous activity can raise your child’s temperature, so don’t take your child’s temperature for at least thirty minutes after activity. When you do take his/her temperature, remember that not all methods result in accurate temperatures. Typically, rectal and oral temperatures are the most accurate. Tympanic (ear) readings are often considered the next best. Temporal (forehead) readings are considered the least accurate. If you must use a temporal thermometer, use it under your child’s armpit rather than on their forehead. By doing this, you will get a more accurate reading.

Most people believe that 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is normal. This is true if the reading was taken orally. If it was taken rectally, then 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit is normal. If taken under the armpit, 97.6 degrees Fahrenheit is considered normal. Remember that your daily temperature fluctuates, so it is not abnormal to see healthy people with slightly elevated temperatures depending on activity and the time of the day. Normal temperatures fluctuate between about 97 and 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit . An oral temperature of 99 degrees Fahrenheit, for example, certainly shouldn’t raise too many concerns.

The vast majority of childhood fevers are caused by viral infections. Viral infections are different than bacterial, because they are not treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics do nothing for viral infections. Most of these self-limited fevers require absolutely no treatment unless your child’s temperature exceeds 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Some medical experts even suggest no treatment until 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Regardless, it’s difficult for most people to determine whether an illness is viral, bacterial, or medical.

When to Call a Doctor for Fever

Because it's difficult to determine the cause of fever, I highly encourage you to promptly consult your child’s pediatrician if:

  • your child is under four months old and has a temperature at or above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • your child is five to nine months old and has a temperature at or above 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • your child is ten to twelve months old and has a temperature at or above 103 degrees Fahrenheit
  • your child is over a year old and has a temperature at or above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, and the fever does not improve with home remedies and over the counter medication

How to Reduce a Fever

Keep the house cool, and remove some of those blankets. Heavy clothing and blankets can keep your child too warm. If your child has a fever, dress him/her lightly, and use a light blanket. Maintain the room temperature between about 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Never allow your child to get so cold that he/she gets the chills. Shivering can increase his/her temperature. If your child gets the chills, you should use more clothing or blankets until the shivering subsides.

Fever increases fluid loss, so make sure your child continues to get adequate fluids. Water, juicy fruits, juice, popsicles, and pedialyte may be used to keep your child hydrated. When my daughter had a severe fever, the emergency room gave multiple popsicles to her. Popsicles hydrate and cool at the same time.

Don’t put your child in a cold bath! Yes, most of us have experienced the cold bath, but that doesn’t mean it works. When placed in a cold bath, most children begin to shiver. This can increase temperature. Consequently, cold baths often increase temperature. This doesn’t mean that you can’t give your child a bath. A luke-warm (neither warm nor cool) bath can often be helpful and often results in a decreased fever.

Child Fever Medicine

Medication can also be used to reduce fever in children. Consult your physician or pharmacist before administering any medication to your child. Your pediatrician most likely knows your child’s medical background and needs far better than anyone on the Internet. Your pediatrician may recommend either acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce fever. Children and teenagers should not use aspirin, unless directed to do so by your pediatrician, to reduce fever. A rare but serious illness, Reye’s Syndrome, has been linked to aspirin use among children and teenagers.

When my child was in the emergency room, the physician recommended ibuprofen and gave the following dosage instructions to me:

(Note the alternate dosages for ibuprofen, based on your child's temperature.)

(Dosage by weight is usually preferable to dosage by age.)

Acetaminophen: Child Fever Medicine

Tylenol (Acetaminophen) 
Infant Drops 80 mg/ 0.8 mL 
Liquid 160 mg/ 5 ml 
Chewable Tablets 80 mg tablets
Children's Caplets 160 mg/caplet
0-3 months / 6-11 lbs. 
0.4 mL
4-11 months / 12-17 lbs. 
0.8 mL
2.5 mL / 1/2 tsp. 
12-23 months / 18-23 lbs. 
1.2 mL 
3.75 mL / 3/4 tsp. 
2-3 years / 24-35 lbs.
1.6 mL
5 mL / 1 tsp.
2 tablets 
1 caplet 
4-5 years / 36-47 lbs.
7.5 mL / 1 1/2 tsp.
3 tablets 
1 1/2 caplets 
6-8 years / 48-59 lbs.
10 mL / 2 tsp.
4 tablets 
2 caplets 
9-10 years / 60-71 lbs.
12.5 mL / 2 1/2 tsp.
5 tablets 
2 1/2 caplets 
11 years / 72-95 lbs.
15 mL / 3tsp.
6 tablets 
3 caplets 
12-14 years
4 caplets 

Ibuprofen: Child Fever Medicine

Children's Motrin (Ibuprofen) 
Fever UNDER 102.5 F.  5mg/kg
Fever OVER 102.5 F.  10mg/kg
6-11 months / 13-17 lbs. 
1.25 mL / 1/4 tsp. 
2.5 mL / 1/2 tsp. 
12-23 months / 18-23 lbs. 
2.5 mL / 1/2 tsp. 
5 mL / 1 tsp. 
2-3 years / 24-35 lbs. 
3.75 mL / 3/4 tsp. 
7.5 mL / 1 1/2 tsp.
4-5 years / 36-47 lbs.
5 mL / 1 tsp.
10 mL / 2 tsp. 
6-8 years / 48-59 lbs.
6.25 mL / 1 1/4 tsp. 
12.5 mL / 2 1/2 tsp. 
9-10 years / 60-71 lbs.
7.5 mL / 1 1/2 tsp. 
15 mL / 3 tsp. 
11 years / 72-95 lbs.
10 mL / 2 tsp. 
20 mL / 4 tsp. 

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Comments 1 comment

ed77burns 6 years ago

those are great information and very informative.

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