Tips for parents about child fever

April 2, 2008

Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat your child's fever, and watch for symptoms and signs that will need a doctor's attention.

Key Points

Your daughter wakes up one morning looking flushed and feeling hot to the touch. You take her temperature: yes, she has a fever. Does this mean your child is ill? Will her elevated temperature cause lasting harm? Should you treat the fever? If so, how?

Fever is indeed a sign of illness, but it also is the body's well-designed weapon for fighting that illness. Elevated body temperature pumps up the immune system and can slow down growth of the bacteria and viruses that are causing the illness. Sometimes fever has some scary effects-shivering, dehydration, or, worst of all, a seizure-but fever in itself will not harm the child in any way. A child's fever will rarely reach a dangerous level.

Nonetheless, you will want to treat your child's fever if she/he complains of pain or appears to be uncomfortable. Either acetaminophen or ibuprofen is the drug to use-never aspirin. Your child's doctor will recommend the correct dosage for either of these medications, based on your child's age and weight.

When to call the doctor if your child has a fever

Adapted from Crocetti MT, Serwint JR, Contemp Pediatr 2005;22(1):34