Elevated temperature; Hyperthermia; Pyrexia
A simple cold or other viral infection can sometimes cause a high fever (102 - 104 °F, or 38.9 - 40 °C). This does not usually mean you or your child have a serious problem. Some serious infections may cause no fever or even a very low body temperature, especially in infants.
If the fever is mild and you have no other problems, you do not need treatment. Drink fluids and rest.
The illness is probably not serious if your child:
- Is still interested in playing
- Is eating and drinking well
- Is alert and smiling at you
- Has a normal skin color
- Looks well when their temperature comes down
Take steps to lower a fever if you or your child is uncomfortable, vomiting, dried out (dehydrated), or not sleeping well. Remember, the goal is to lower, not eliminate, the fever.
When trying to lower a fever:
- Do NOT bundle up someone who has the chills.
- Remove excess clothing or blankets. The room should be comfortable, not too hot or cool. Try one layer of lightweight clothing, and one lightweight blanket for sleep. If the room is hot or stuffy, a fan may help.
- A lukewarm bath or sponge bath may help cool someone with a fever. This is especially effective after medication is given -- otherwise the temperature might bounce right back up.
- Do NOT use cold baths, ice, or alcohol rubs. These cool the skin, but often make the situation worse by causing shivering, which raises the core body temperature.
Here are some guidelines for taking medicine to lower a fever:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) help reduce fever in children and adults. Sometimes doctors advise you to use both types of medicine.
- Take acetaminophen every 4 - 6 hours. It works by turning down the brain's thermostat.
- Take ibuprofen every 6 - 8 hours. DO NOT use ibuprofen in children younger than 6 months old.
- Aspirin is very effective for treating fever in adults. DO NOT give aspirin to a child unless your child's doctor tells you to.
- Know how much you or your child weighs, and then always check the instructions on the package.
- In children under age 3 months, call your doctor first before giving medicines.
Eating and drinking with a fever:
- Everyone, especially children, should drink plenty of fluids. Water, popsicles, soup, and gelatin are all good choices.
- Do not give too much fruit or apple juice and avoid sports drinks in younger children.
- Although eating foods with a fever is fine, do not force foods.
Review Date: 01/29/2010
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.