How to Treat High Fever in Children

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A high fever is anything that's more than 100.4 degrees, but a fever itself will not hurt a child, so it's important to be cautious when treating a child's fever. Learn about the dangers of children overdosing on medications intended to treat fevers with help from a pediatrician in this free video on preventing medical problems in children.

Part of the Video Series: Kids' Health & Pediatrics
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Dr. David Hill and today we're going to talk about how to treat a high fever in children. So the first question is: what's a high fever? Well, we consider a fever anything over a hundred point four degrees, taken rectally, anything over ninety-nine degrees taken in the armpit, although that's not a terribly accurate way to measure temperature, or anything over ninety-nine point nine degrees taken under the tounge. There also ear thermometers which are read like an oral temperature that may not be terribly accurate and more sophisticated temporal artery thermometers. When a fever gets over about a hundred-two, we start thinking that there may be something more going on then a simple virus. When a fever reaches a hundred-four, we recommend calling your doctor for advice. And if it's over a hundred-five, your child should probably be evaluated within the next several hours as opposed to waiting for the next day. I want to clarify though, it's not because fever is going to hurt your child. Fever does not harm children. That is one of the most common misperceptions, even among some physicians. While fevers may contribute to febrile seizures, bringing fevers down aggressively does not seem to prevent febrile seizures, and febrile seizures don't seem to cause any permanent damage to children who get them. So be cautious when you're trying to bring a fever down. It's fine to use Tylenol if a child is over two months of age, or ibuprofren, which is Advil or Motrin over six months of age. We used to tell parents to alternate the medicines. We no longer recommend that. We think there's a greater danger of a child being overdosed and it doesn't seem to work any better than not alternating. So pick one that works for you and feel free to stick with it knowing if that if you have to use the other one, you can. We might recommend a luke warm bath to help a child with comfort, but don't try to put the child in a cold bath, or take them outside in cold air undressed. You're just going to make the child that much more uncomfortable and not to benefit the child. So, remember with fever, if it's over a hundred-four, you should call your doctor for advice and have the child seen within twenty-four hours. If it's over a hundred-five, seek care within the next hour or two to find what is causing a fever of that height. But remember, don't do anything extreme to bring fever down. You're much more likely to cause harm than you are doing good. Talking about what to do for a high fever in children, I'm Dr. David Hill.


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