When a Child’s Fever Must Be Seen by a Doctor

Does your child have a fever? While fever may be a sign of illness, it may also be a part of the cure.

If your child has a fever, do you automatically reach for the medicine cabinet? Well, you may want to rethink this. Now, many in the medical profession feel that there’s good evidence to suggest that fevers don’t necessarily need to be brought under control with medications such as acetaminophen. In fact, fevers may actually help to kick-start the immune system into fighting off viral and bacterial infections, explains pediatrician, Dr. Paul Theissen. “The more we learn about fever over the years the more we learn that fever is an important adaptation of the body to fighting infection. We have become much more conservative about fighting fever as an objective in itself. So fever should be treated if it’s making the child uncomfortable and really unwell. But I don’t think that fever should be fought and brought down at any cost.”

A fever is defined as a body temperature that is above normal. A child is thought to have a fever when their temperature reads higher than 37.5°C (99.5°F) in the mouth, more than 37.2°C (99°F) under the arm, or above 38°C (100.4°F) when measured rectally. While fever in itself isn’t dangerous, sometimes the illness that accompanies it is. So, if your child has a fever and other symptoms such as listlessness, uncontrollable crying, a stiff neck, trouble breathing, and/or confusion, seek immediate medical attention.

The age of a child also plays a role as to when a physician must see him or her. First, a doctor should see a child of any age if the fever lasts for 3 or more days. Secondly, if your child is under two and the fever lasts for more than a day, call your doctor. Finally, if you have a newborn with a fever, seek immediate attention. According to Dr. Theissen, “a child under 3 months of age who gets a high fever of 39 to 40 degrees should be seen by a physician fairly urgently that day. Certainly a child under one month of age should be seen immediately. A high fever should never be dismissed in a young infant. The likelihood of it being a bacterial infection is quite high.”

Finally, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. If you’re concerned about your child’s fever, always have it checked out by a qualified health professional.


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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