What is the best way to take my child’s temperature to ensure accuracy?
There are all kinds of thermometers available, and different spots on the body can be used to check your child’s temperature, including the rectum, armpit, ear, forehead, or mouth. If you have an infant under four months old, doctors recommend using a rectal thermometer. In general, a rectal temperature is the most accurate. Typically, if the temperature is 100.4 F or higher, your child has a fever.
If you have an infant over four months old, one option is using a pacifier thermometer. For a baby older than six months, you can use an ear or forehead thermometer, but they may not be as accurate as a rectal thermometer. Many older children, as well as teens, do fine with a mouth thermometer.
When should I call the doctor if my child has a fever?
Many parents worry about when to call the doctor when their child is feverish. You should call if your child is:
- Younger than three months and has a fever of 100.4 F or higher
- Older than three months and the fever is over 101 F
- Under one year old and the fever lasts more than a day
- Any age with a fever of 104 F or higher
You should also call your pediatrician if your child has any of these symptoms with the fever:
- Dehydration (dry diapers, crying without tears, can’t keep fluids down)
- Stiff neck
- Severe headache
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Mental confusion
- Any unusual symptoms
If your pediatrician has already seen and treated your child, call if the fever lasts longer than three days or is not responsive to medication.
Call 911 when your child:
- Is limp and unresponsive
- Is vomiting with a stiff neck
- Has seizures
- Has trouble breathing
How should I care for my feverish child at home?
If your infant has never had any over-the-counter medicine previously, call your pediatrician’s office before giving any medication. If your child is over four months old, giving children’s acetaminophen according to the instructions on the package is usually fine.
To help bring a fever down, you can give your child a sponge bath using lukewarm water — not cold water. Never use rubbing alcohol or an ice bath. If you’ve given medication and a sponge bath, and a high fever still doesn’t come down or gets higher, call your pediatrician or bring your child to UrgiKids.