Consider the source
Above all, fever is one of many useful clues that all is not well with your child. “Look for symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, runny nose, cough, decreased appetite, a sore throat or a rash,” suggests Brown. “If you can’t figure out the cause of the fever, it’s time to get professional help.” Typically, the symptoms will point to a viral or bacterial infection. Children tend to have an average of nine upper respiratory tract infections a year that include fever—and kids in daycare or preschool often have more, notes the ACEP. “There are other causes for fever, but infection tops the list,” says Brown.
Take appropriate action In the case of a viral infection (such as a cold, flu or stomach bug)—often indicated by a runny nose, cough, vomiting and/or diarrhea—you may not even need to see the doctor. “Viral infections usually do not require medication and are fought off effectively by the body’s immune system,” Brown explains. Of course, try to make your child as comfortable as possible with lightweight clothing and blankets, and plenty of rest, fluids and TLC. Use a feverreducer like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to bring the temperature down (see box below for more on OTC meds).
If the symptoms suggest a bacterial infection— or something more serious—you should see your pediatrician. “Bacterial infections frequently arise secondary to a pre-existing viral illness,” Brown says. “Red flags include a child who is ill and suddenly gets worse instead of better; for example, a new fever, new green snot, new irritability or new labored breathing.”
Most importantly, pay attention to your child’s behavior. If he is irritable, lethargic, disoriented, inconsolable, having trouble sleeping or shows signs of dehydration (such as not producing tears and/or not urinating at least three times in 24 hours), call the doctor. You should also seek medical attention if the fever lasts for more than three or four days, is getting progressively higher or no obvious symptoms accompany it.
Go to the next page for the best over-the-counter treatment options…