Signs Your Fever is “Normal”
Most of us have heard that a normal adult body temperature is considered to be 98.6°F. But what you might not know is that infants and young children generally have higher temperatures than older children and adults.
“This is related to the greater surface-area-to-body-weight ratio and the higher metabolic rate of infants and small children,” Dr. Mlynarek explains.
After having my third baby, I finally realized that a fever doesn’t mean the same thing for every child. Now I know that a fever accompanied by other symptoms is usually the sign of trouble.
My oldest actually gets cooler when she’s really sick while my middle kid runs a temp nearly every day for no major reason. It’s helpful to have a baseline temperature when considering each child’s health, though.
Dr. Mlynarek’s helpful guide for what is considered a true fever in children of all ages:
- Rectal temperature greater than or equal to 100.4°
- Oral or pacifier temperature of 100° or higher
- Axillary (armpit) temperature of 99° or higher
The best ways to check body temperature for different age groups, according to Dr. Mlynarek is as follows:
- Neonates and infants 0-3 months: rectal temperature
- Older infants and children up until age 4: ear or armpit temperature
- Children older than 5: oral temperature
Dr. Mlynarek says if your child has a fever, but doesn’t show signs of dehydration, respiratory distress, neck stiffness or altered mental status, it can be easily managed at home and isn’t cause for concern.
“Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be used as fever-reducing medications if the child appears uncomfortable and has decreased activity level,” Dr. Mlynarek recommends.
“Acetaminophen can be used in children older than three months and ibuprofen in children older than six months. Other management options include a cool bath or cool washcloth on the child’s forehead.”
My middle kid regularly runs a high temperature is she’s having anxiety or mild allergies, but since there are no other symptoms, if her temp stays below 101, we care for her at home. I used to freak out every time this happened, which became exhausting: there was nothing I could ever do about it, and it always resolved itself on its own.
Signs Your Fever Could be Indicating Danger
There are certainly situations when a fever is signaling a serious problem. In these cases, parents should take action.
“If your child has a fever and is limp, weak, unresponsive, has severe difficulty breathing or has a rash with purple or blue-colored spots or dots, call 911 immediately,” Dr. Mlynarek stresses.
She strongly suggests newborns less than four weeks old who have a rectal temperature of 100.4 or higher should be taken to the emergency department. Parents should also go to the emergency room if their child is less than a year old with a combination of fever and sickle cell disease, confusion, altered mental status, seizure or weakened immune system.
There is a whole host of additional symptoms associated with fever that warrant a conversation with your child’s pediatrician.
- Child cries when they are touched
- Sustained/frequent crying
- Won’t move an arm or leg
- Difficulty breathing/nasal congestion
- Tugging at ears
- Pain with urination
- Signs of dehydration
- Fever for more than three days
- Barky cough
- Productive cough
- Sore throat
- Abdominal pain