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Treating Fever in Young Children

Fevers can be scary in young children, especially for new parents. Parents must decide if a fever should be treated or left to run its course, and if and when a child should visit the doctor. If treating the fever, there are a range of drug, non-drug and alternative treatments available.

** NOTE: The author of this article is NOT a doctor or health professional, but merely sharing her experience as a mom treating fever for her children. TALK TO YOUR PEDIATRICIAN OR OTHER HEALTH PROFESSIONAL BEFORE GIVING OR NOT GIVING YOUR CHILD MEDICATION.

It is important to note that if the child is perfectly happy (as opposed to miserable and complaining of headache) while running a fever, it is often not necessary to medicate it, especially during the day. My second daughter was prone to high fevers even with minor colds and was sometimes running around playing with 103 degree fevers. If a child is lethargic, unhappy, complaining of headache or body pain and/or has loss of appetite along with a high fever, these are all reasons to consider active management.

It is very important to watch a child for signs of dehydration during fever illnesses, especially if appetite is reduced. Signs may include lethargy (excessive sleepiness), dry mouth, reduced need to urinate and/or lack of tears when crying. These can be late signs of dehydration, so contact your health professional if you notice them. A great trick my pediatrician taught us is to press gently on the child's heel or nail bed. The skin or nail will blanch (turn white) and color should return in two seconds or less. A longer time indicates some level of dehydration with longer times more serious.

Water intake is important even small amounts or sips given in frequent intervals can hold off dehydration. For children who reject water, regular or pediatric electrolyte drinks, soup broth, 100% fruit juice or tea provides alternatives. Small spoonfuls of watery foods like unsweetened applesauce may be more appealing to young children.

Keep track of how the fever is progressing in deciding whether to treat. Fevers often increase in the evening and through the night and reduce again during the day. A fever seemingly gone in the morning may return again as the sun goes down. It can be tricky to find an accurate, reliable thermometer for children these days. There are several options available ear thermometers, digital thermometers that can be used orally, rectally and under the arm, and temporal scan thermometers. See my article, "Taking Temperature of Young Children (coming soon)" in related links below. While not always necessary, remember that rectal temperature is still the gold standard, especially with young babies, if making decisions about treatment or the need for professional intervention.

For treating a fever, by traditional, natural or alternative means, see my article "Fever Medications for Young Children (coming soon)" in related links below.

This is a great, fast rectal thermometer for infants:


We've had good luck with this thermometer in terms of ease and accuracy for older children and adults:




Disclaimer: All material on the BellaOnline.com Early Childhood website is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Although every effort is made to provide accurate and up-to-date information as of the date of publication, the author is neither a medical doctor, health practitioner, nor licensed mental health professional. If you are concerned about your health, or that of your child, consult with your health care provider regarding the advisability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your individual situation. Information obtained from the Internet can never take the place of a personal consultation with a licensed health care provider, and neither the author nor BellaOnline.com assume any legal responsibility to update the information contained on this site or for any inaccurate or incorrect information contained on this site, and do not accept any responsibility for any decisions you may make as a result of the information contained on this site or in any referenced or linked materials written by others.

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This content was written by Nicki Heskin. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Nicki Heskin for details.



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