How to Know If a Child’s Fever is Serious

A Parent's Guide to Treating High Temperature in Children

Photo Kourlyn Lott|CC

How high is too high? Should you give Tylenol, or wait to consult your Doctor?  Here are some tips for parents treating high temperature in children.

What Temperature is a High-Grade Fever in Children?

Normal body temperature is 98.6 F (37 C), but every child’s temperature naturally fluctuates during the day. The magic number for a low-grade fever is 100.4 F (38 C), or above.  A high temperature, or high-grade fever, is considered 102.5 F, or above.


When NOT to Worry About Fever in Children

1. Fevers that last SHORTER than five days…

A child maybe feverish for several days and it’s OK if they are tired.  If your child is behaving pretty much as normal otherwise — with regards to eating, playing, and drinking — parents do not need to worry.

2. If a child’s temperature is 102.5 degrees F or lower…

A low-grade temperature indicates that the body is acting normally to fight infection.

3. If your child was recently got a shot…

Immunizations help activate the bodies’ natural immune system, so a fever after a shot is quite normal.

When to Worry About a High Temperature, and Call Your Pediatrician

1. If your child is younger than 3 months old…

A fever of any degree is worrisome in an infant younger than 3 mos old, and warrants a call to your doctor for further advice.

2. If your child’s fever lasts LONGER than five days…

Fevers of prolonged duration may indicate a complex illness that requires further investigation by a pediatrician.

3. If a child’s temperature is over 104 degrees F…

High-grade fevers, that do not respond to medication within 2 hours, require immediate pediatric attention.

4. If your child is not acting normally…

When a child is not eating or drinking normally, or cannot be roused, or is excessively lethargic, these may be warning signs of a more serious illness requiring medical care.

5. If your child got a shot AND there fever lasts LONGER than 24 hours…

A pediatrician should be informed if a child has a prolonged fever after immunization.

6. If a parent is still worried about fever…

Parents should always consult with a physician anytime they have questions about their child’s health — if only for peace of min.

How to treat your child’s fever

  • Keep your child cool. Don’t use heavy blankets or overly warm clothing.
  • Prevent dehydration by offering your child plenty of clear liquids: water, juice, or Pedialyte.  Hint:  Frozen Pedialyte Popsicles work great!
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of Rest.
  • Use Acetaminophen (Tylenol) to treat fevers above 102 F in children who are older than 3 months.
  • Give a lukewarm (not cold) bath to help bring the temperature down.

Children can return to school when they have been symptom-free, without fever, for 24-hours, without the use of medication.

Public Health Source Cleveland Children’s Clinic

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