When to Take an Infant to the Hospital for a Fever?


Fevers in infants are common, but they are also a cause for concern as they can be a sign of serious illness. Concerned new parents can go crazy trying to figure out when to call a doctor, or when they should rush to the emergency room. There are guidelines for when to seek medical attention for your infant and her fever.

What's Normal

A baby's fever can be the result of being bundled too tightly or skin-to-skin contact. If your baby cools down quickly after being unbundled, and otherwise seems to be fine, there is probably no cause for concern, but keep track of your child's fever and watch for other symptoms. Fevers within the first few months can be a sign of a serious illness, as children this age have undeveloped immune systems that cannot easily ward off infection.

When to Call your Doctor

For infants less than three months old, you should call your doctor if a fever is higher than 100.4 degrees rectally. In babies three months to one year old, call a doctor when a fever reaches 102.2 degrees or higher. Always call a doctor right away if any fever lasts longer than 24-48 hours, or if there are other symptoms of illness, a known serious illness or disease affecting the immune system or if a fever comes and goes repeatedly for a week or more. Generally, doctors want to be informed about any high temperatures, and it is always appropriate to call your child's primary care physician with fever concerns. Most pediatricians, clinics and health insurance companies have a 24-hour nurse line that can answer questions about fever, set up appointments and advise you when emergency care is appropriate. When you call, be ready to answer questions about symptoms, medical history and any remedies you've tried.

When to Call 911

Call 911 or take your child to the emergency room immediately if he has a fever higher than 104 degrees, or if he has any degree of fever and will not stop crying; cannot be awakened easily; has difficulty breathing; has blue lips, tongue, nails, or skin; has a stiff neck; will not move his limbs; or has a seizure. Remember to never take a chance with an infant's health--it's always better to err on the side of caution.

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