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A Pediatrician's Quick Guide to Childhood Fevers

November 30, 2017

Every parent has to deal with some common ailments throughout the childhood years.  There will be coughs, runny noses, bumps and scrapes, and, of course, fevers.  Finding your child hot to the touch is always a frightening moment, particularly in the fall and winter months when the flu is in full stride.  It’s easy to panic or assume the worst, but childhood fevers are common and rarely dangerous.  In fact, a fever can be a good thing, indicating that your child’s immune system is hard at work to fight off infection.  That being said, there are still instances in which fever is a definite cause for concern.  So, in order to help you determine what is and is not normal for your child’s fever, take note of the following:

Methods for Taking Your Child’s Temperature

Although you may think that all thermometers are created equally, there are actually a wide variety of options available, and they each measure temperature in different ways.  In order to ensure the accuracy of results, it is important to understand how to properly use and interpret each one:

Rectal - Rectal thermometers offer the greatest level of accuracy.  However, they can be less than ideal from a convenience standpoint, particularly when dealing with children.  Still, if your child is under three years of age and obtaining the most accurate reading is critical, these are your best bet.

Oral – Kids can easily throw off the results from an oral thermometer if they don’t hold it properly under their tongue.  For this reason, oral readings are best obtained from older children.  You can help ensure accuracy by waiting about 15 minutes following any hot or cold beverages before taking the temperature.

Armpit – This method is generally easy to use across children of all ages.  However, results can be skewed by room temperature.  If you choose to take your child’s temperature under the arm, add 1 degree to your results for accuracy.

Ear - Ear thermometers have become very popular among parents of small children for their ease of use.  However, it can be difficult to properly insert the tip of the thermometer into the small ear canal of an infant or toddler.  To help ensure proper placement, pull your child’s ear slightly up and back, opening the ear canal.

Forehead – Thermometers that provide forehead readings from the temporal arteries are convenient but also expensive.  If you own one of these devices, make sure that you carefully follow the manufacturer’s exact instructions for obtaining the most accurate reading.

When Should Your Child’s Fever Worry You?

While odds are that your child’s fever is no cause for concern, there are some situations in which you should quickly seek medical care.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should contact their physician if fever reaches any of the following levels:

0-2 Months Old - 100.4 or greater

3-6 Months Old – 101 or greater

6 Months and Up – 103 or greater

In addition to the level of fever, there are other warning signs which indicate the need for medical attention.  Let your doctor know if fever is accompanied by pain in the ears, throat, or while urinating.  And, go directly to the emergency room if your child has trouble breathing, is inconsolable, has trouble walking, or if the temperature is accompanied by a rash that does not blanch when touched or that appears as purple bruises.

We understand that fever in a young child can be frightening.  Fortunately, most cases are mild and resolve easily on their own.  However, if you have any concerns or if your child is also experiencing the previously mentioned symptoms, contact Lane Pediatrics to discuss your concerns and schedule an appointment to bring them in as soon as possible.

Lane Pediatrics

6110 Main Street, Suite B

Zachary, LA  70791

(225) 658-4070