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Treating fevers: What parents need to know

Mom on the phone frustrated while baby is crying

Fever is the body's natural response to illness or infection, and it's important for parents to know that fever is not known to endanger a generally healthy child.

The reason we treat a fever is because we want the child to be comfortable. When kids are comfortable they tend to drink better, have increased activity and are less irritable. Parents should focus on signs of improvements, instead of the exact degree of the temperature. 

Over-the-Counter Medications

Children can be treated with either acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Ibuprofen can be used for kids six months of age and older. Acetaminophen can be used for younger infants, but if a child is less than three months of age and has a fever, contact the child's primary pediatrician before using acetaminophen.

Choose the medication the child responds to best and stick with it. Don't alternate between acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Also, keep track of when you give the medication, so the next dose isn't given too soon. (See links below for reminders on appropriate dosages.) 

When to Contact the Doctor 

So when should parents contact the child's primary pediatrician because of a fever? Here's some examples of when I think it would be a good idea.

  • If the child is less than three months of age (as mentioned above).
  • The child doesn't seem to be improving with management at home.
  • The child is not able to tolerate liquids or has signs of dehydration, such as decrease in wet diapers or dry mouth.
  • If the child is acting ill, even when fever-free.
  • If the child has a severe headache, sore throat or ear pain.
  • If the child isn't acting like him or herself.
  • If you have any concerns.

Hopefully, these tips help the next time your little one has a fever.

Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) Dosage Table

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Dosage Table

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Pediatric Urgent Care