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Fever alarms parents more than any other sign of illness. This is understandable since fever usually means that the child has an infection. Often it is difficult to determine the nature and seriousness of an infection at its onset. Observing a child for a short time may yield other symptoms such as rash, vomiting or sore throat.

Fever occurs when the body’s immune system is active. The immune system may be active due to inflammation such as in teething, or as part of the body’s infection-fighting process. Fever is helpful because most viruses and bacteria are unable to live or multiply at high temperatures; fever, therefore hinders the progress of the infection.

When to call the doctor if your child has a fever

The question of when to notify the doctor of a fever depends on the age of the child.

In infants less than two months old any fever should be discussed with a doctor.

For older children, a temperature of 102°F, if it lasts longer than 48 hours, should be discussed with the doctor.

In general, you can learn a lot more about how ill your child is by looking at them, rather than looking at the number on the thermometer.

A child’s behavior provides the best clue of how serious an illness is. Fevers drain children of energy. This makes them more cranky, clingy and sleepy than usual. When the fever is down, however, they should be able to show interest in toys and family. Most children lose their appetites when sick, but they should still drink liquids well.

Normal body temperature is 98.6°F measured under the tongue. However, body temperature varies between 97-100.3°F over the course of a given day, whether a person is well or sick. If the temperature stays at or higher than 100.4°F for more than a few hours, fever is present.

Measuring the temperature accurately is important.

For infants, it is necessary to take it rectally; for toddlers, one can take it under the arm and in children over 4 years old, under the tongue.

Managing a fever in infants and young children:

Giving medication for fever:

Weight Age* Acetaminophen Infant/Children’s Oral Suspension  160mg/5ml
Acetaminophen Children’s suspension  160mg/5ml Acetaminophen Children’s Meltaways   80mg/tablet Acetaminophen Junior Meltaways   160mg/tablet
6-11 lbs 0-3 mo 1.25 ml (40mg)  n/a  n/a  n/a
12-17 lbs 4-11 mo 2.5 ml (80mg) 2.5 ml  n/a  n/a
18-23 lbs 12-23 mo 3.75ml
5 ml  n/a  n/a
24-35 lbs 2-3 yrs 5.0 ml
5 ml 2 tablets  n/a
36-47 lbs 4-5 yrs  n/a 7.5 ml 3 tablets  n/a
48-59 lbs 6-8 yrs  n/a 10 ml 4 tablets 2 tablets
60-71 lbs  9-10 yrs  n/a 12.5 ml 5 tablets 2½ tablets
72-95 lbs 11 yrs  n/a 15 ml 6 tablets 3 tablets
96 lbs and over 12 yrs  n/a  n/a  n/a 4 tablets

*use only when wt not available