Fever is the body's normal defence against infection by bacteria or virus. It is very common among young children. Fever in itself is not dangerous. In general it disappears within 72 hours (3 days). Older children with a fever may be cared for at home, as long as they drink enough fluids and otherwise seem in good health. However, they should also be examined by a doctor if the fever lasts more than 72 hours. If your child seems sick, hot, red, cranky, whiny or worn out, take her temperature Write it down so you can tell your doctor if needed.

You can take your child's temperature several different ways: 
Taking the rectal temperature is the only reliable method to use for children ages 2 and under. 
Under the arm
Taking the temperature under the arm is not as reliable but can be used to see whether or not your baby has fever.
In the ear or mouth
Taking the temperature in the ear is quick but is not recommended because it is less accurate in young children. Taking the temperature orally (mouth) is not recommended for children under the age of 5.

The thermometer
When it comes to thermometers, the best choice is the use of an electronic thermometer with digital display, made of unbreakable plastic and without glass or mercury, that is designed for rectal (bum), oral (mouth) or axillary (under the arm) use. Mercury thermometers aren't recommended any more because if the thermometer breaks, mercury is a toxic substance for people and the environment. 

  • Wash the thermometer with cool water and soap; rinse well.
  • Cover the tip with petroleum jelly (i.e Vaseline).
  • Put your baby on her back with her knees bent towards her chest.
  • Gently insert the thermometer about 1.5 cm (3/4 inch) into the rectum.
  • Keep the thermometer in place until you hear it beep. Remove the thermometer and write down the temperature. 
  • Wash the thermometer. 

Under the arm:
Axillary temperature (under the arm) is not as accurate as the rectal temperature. However, it does allow you to see whether or not your child has fever. If your child is under the age of 2 and you have determined that she has fever (more than 37.3 degrees Celsius) when her temperature is taken under the arm, confirm your reading by taking her temperature rectally. If her temperature under the arm does not indicate that she has a fever but she seems hot and sick, check her temperature by taking it rectally. 
  • Use an electronic rectal or oral thermometer.
  • Wash the thermometer with cool water and soap; rinse well.
  • Place the tip of the thermometer in the middle of the armpit.
  • Make sure your child's arm is held closely against her body.
  • Keep the thermometer in place until you hear it beep. Remove the thermometer and write down the temperature. 
  • Wash the thermometer.

What is a child's normal temperature?
A child's normal temperature will vary depending on the method used to take the temperature.
Axillary (under the arm): 
Normal temperature variation from 34.7 degrees C to 37.3 degrees C (94.5F to 99.1F)
Normal temperature variation from 36.6 degrees C to 38.0 degrees C (97.9F to 100.4F)

A child's temperature is lower in the morning and varies during the day, based on her activities. You don't need to take the temperature of a child who seems to be feeling well. When a child has an infection, her temperature will change easily; it can go up or down very quickly. 

What should i do if my child has fever?
The child's general condition is usually a better indicator of the severity of the illness than how high the fever is. Dress your child lightly, in a t-shirt, diaper and socks. Lay her down for a nap and cover her with a sheet. Don't undress her completely because that may make her cold. Give her lots to drink to help avoid dehydration: milk, water or juice, depending on her age. The room temperature shouldn't be above 21 degrees C (70F). Sponge baths are no longer recommended. The effect doesn't last long and it stresses a feverish child.

Fever medication
Medication is more helpful in improving a child's comfort than in reducing her fever. A feverish child does not necessarily need medicine if she doesn't seem sick and appears to be comfortable. However, if she is suffering or irritable, medication can help her feel better. You can give your child either of the following medications, unless your doctor has a specific recommendation for your child. Don't give your child both medications at the same time. Your child's dose will depend on her age and especially her weight. It is important to follow the manufacturer's instructions on the packaging. 

Acetaminophen (Tempra, Tylenol, Panadol, etc.) has been used for a long time and is a suitable choice. The manufacturer recommends giving a dose every 4 hours, without exceeding 5 doses in 24 hours. 

Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) is also used to reduce fever. Its effect lasts longer, so you can give a dose every 6 to 8 hours, without exceeding 4 doses in 24 hours. Don't give your child ibuprofen in the following situations:

  • She is under 6 months old; 
  • Dehydration, severe stomach flu or a child that doesn't drink; 
  • Chicken pox;
  • Asthma;
  • Kidney failure;
  • Immediately before or after an operation.

The two medications generally lower the fever in 30 to 60 minutes, but the effect does not last that long. Usually, the temperature increases again after a certain amount of time and it may be necessary to give another dose. It is important not to exceed the recommend dose. 

If your child throws up her medication shortly after taking it (after less than 30 minutes), don't give another dose. Wait 1 hour and take her temperature again. If she still has a fever, give another dose. If she throws it up again, don't repeat the dose, see a doctor right away.


When should you see a health professional?
A high fever doesn't always mean serious illness. You should check your child's general condition, behaviour and other symptoms. A feverish child is clingier and less hungry; this is normal. Contact your doctor or local clinic if your child has a fever and: 
  • Drinks very little;
  • Throws up;
  • Is difficult to comfort or is very cranky;
  • Coughs a lot;
  • A rash (red spots on the skin);
  • Has had a fever for more than 72 hours for no apparent reason.
You should also contact your doctor or your local clinic if you have any concerns at all! 

***See a doctor quickly if you child has a fever and shows one or more of the following symptoms or characteristics: 
  • Is less than 3 months old and has a rectal temperature equal or higher than 38 degrees C.
  • Is between the ages of 3 and 6 months and has a rectal temperature equal or higher than 39 degrees C.
  • Throws up a lot.
  • Cries non-stop.
  • Is difficult to wake.
  • Is pale or has an unhealthy colour.
  • Reacts very little to others.
  • Wheezes when she breathes.
  • Has a fever over 41.1 degrees C (106F).
  • Has had a convulsion.

***In most cases, quiet time, love and liquids do the job. The fever will go away in 2 to 3 days.

***PLEASE NOTE: This article does not reflect a doctor's or practitioner's medical opinion and should only be used as a reference. This is only general information provided by the Hospital Anna-Laberge. If in doubt or with a question or concern, please contact your local clinic or hospital for more detailed and personalized information and/or help.

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