Should I try to lower my child's fever?
Fevers are a sign that the body is fighting germs that cause infection. If your child is between 3 months of age and 3 years of age and has a low-grade fever (up to 102°F [38.8°C]), you may want to avoid giving him or her medicine. If your child is achy and fussy, and his or her temperature is above 102°F (38.8°C), you may want to give him or her some medicine.
If your baby is younger than 3 months of age and has a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, call the doctor or go to the emergency room right away. A fever can be a sign of a serious infection in young babies.
What kind of medicine should I give my child, and how much?
Do not give any medicine to babies who are younger than 2 months of age without talking to your doctor first.
Acetaminophen (one brand name: Children's or Infants' Tylenol) relieves pain and lowers fever. Check the package label or ask your doctor about the correct dosage for your child. The correct dosage depends on your child’s weight and age.
Ibuprofen is another medicine that can be used to lower a fever in children older than 6 months of age. Talk to your doctor before giving ibuprofen (two brand names: Children's Advil, Children's Motrin) to your child. Your doctor will tell you the correct dose for your child.
Tips on giving medicine
- Don't give more than 5 doses in 1 day.
- Don't give a baby younger than 2 months of age any medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
- Read package labels carefully. Make sure you are giving your child the right amount of medicine.
- For liquid medicines, use a special liquid measuring device to be sure you give the right dose. Get one at your drug store or ask your pharmacist. An ordinary kitchen teaspoon may not hold the right amount of medicine.
Can I give my child aspirin to lower his or her fever?
No. In rare cases, aspirin can cause Reye's syndrome in children. Reye's syndrome is a serious illness that can lead to death. Doctors recommend that parents should not give aspirin to children younger than 18 years of age.
What else can I do to help my child feel better?
- Give your child plenty of fluids to drink to prevent dehydration (not enough fluid in the body) and help the body cool itself. Water, clear soups, popsicles and flavored gelatin are good choices.
- If your child is getting enough fluids, don’t force him or her to eat if he or she doesn’t feel like it.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
- Keep the room temperature at about 70°F to 74°F.
- Dress your child in light cotton pajamas. Overdressing can trap body heat and cause your child's temperature to rise.
- If your child has chills, give him or her an extra blanket. Remove it when the chills stop.
Will a bath help lower my child's fever?
Giving your child acetaminophen and a lukewarm bath may help lower his or her fever. Give the acetaminophen before the bath. If the bath is given without medicine, your child may start shivering as his or her body tries to raise its temperature again. This may make your child feel worse. Never use rubbing alcohol or cold water for baths.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff