Does my baby have a fever?

Fevers are cause for concern, but are rarely dangerous. Actually, fevers (high and low) are one of the many ways in which your child’s immune system responds to infection. In fact, low fevers are actually helpful—not harmful. That is little comfort, however, when your child is burning up, cranky, refuses to eat or drink, and can’t sleep. 

You should feel comfortable calling your child’s doctor anytime you have a question or a concern about your child’s health, especially in the case of a worrisome fever. Oftentimes fever-reducing medication (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) is recommended. Do not give aspirin to children, as it has been linked to Reyes syndrome. For children under the age of 2, the dosage is based on their weight (not their age), so you’ll need to have a conversation with the doctor before administering any medication including those available over-the-counter. In general, you’ll want to call the doctor if these conditions are present: 

  • Your baby is 0 to 2 months old AND has a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. 
  • Your baby is 3 to 6 months old AND has a rectal temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher. 
  • Your baby is 6 months old or older AND has a temperature of 103°F (39°C) or higher. 
  • Your child has symptoms of sore throat, earache, cough, skin rash, painful urination, stiff neck, diarrhea, vomiting, or seizure. 
  • Your child is fussier or sleepier than usual, confused, unresponsive, or lethargic. 
  • Your child has had a high fever for more than 24 hours, even if there is no obvious cause. 
  • Your child has a history of febrile (fever-induced) seizures. 

If your child has difficulty breathing, swallowing, or awakening, call 911 immediately. 

For more on fevers, click here. For more on medications, click here.

Last updated September 25, 2021

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