Your child is sweaty, flushed, and his forehead feels warm. You think he has a fever. What should you do?

A gentle kiss or light touch of your child’s skin can clue you in to the presence of fever, but it does not give an accurate measurement. According to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Kid Care app, fever is defined as the following:

  • rectal, ear or forehead temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher
  • oral (mouth) temperature of 100°F (37.8°C) or higher
  • under the arm (armpit) temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher

When deciding to treat the fever, follow these helpful tips:

1. Consider your child’s overall condition. Fever is a symptom, not an illness. Fever can be beneficial because it can help the body fight infection. So it's important to always look at how your child is acting, not just her temperature. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is she still interested in playing?
  • Is he eating and drinking well?
  • Is she alert and smiling at you?
  • Does he have a normal skin color?
  • Does she look well when her temperature comes down?

2. Use medicine only when you need to. Fevers need to be treated with medicine only if they cause discomfort. Most often, that means fevers above 102°F (39°C).

3. If you decide to treat the fever with medicine, make sure you know which medicine to give and how much. Always follow directions on medicine labels. If you have questions about the amount you should give your child, view our dosage tables for acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

When to Call the Doctor
Always call the doctor regarding any fever if your child is younger than 3 months old. For older children, call a healthcare provider if they: 

  • appear to be dehydrated, meaning they haven’t urinated in over eight hours, have dark urine, or have a very dry mouth and no tears
  • become confused, extremely irritable or difficult to arouse
  • have a fever registering higher than 104°F on a digital thermometer
  • have a fever that lasts longer than 72 hours
  • look or act sick 

For more tips on how to help your child’s next fever, download the free St. Louis Children’s Hospital Kid Care App

If you would like information about fever and its side effects or tips on how to take a temperature emailed or mailed to you, contact our Center for Families Resource Library.


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