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A fever is the body’s natural way of fighting an illness or infection. Fevers are common in children. Most fevers in children accompany a cold or mild illness and will go away on their own with treatment at home. However, there are times when a fever needs to be evaluated by your child’s medical team. Here are answers to some common questions about fevers.

What is considered a fever?

A temperature of 100.4° F or higher is considered a fever.

What is the best way to take my child’s temperature?

Your child’s temperature may be taken with a digital thermometer in one of five ways. The best way to take it depends on the age of the child.

  • Axillary (armpit) – appropriate for an estimate at any age
  • Rectal – most accurate so advised for infants 0-3 months of age
  • Temporal (forehead) – reliable for children ages 3 months +
  • Ear – reliable for children ages 6 months +
  • Oral – usually able to use with children beginning at 4-5 years of age

When should I take my child to the pediatrician?

While many fevers are a natural response to an infection, there are times you should seek medical attention for your child.

Please bring your child in for an exam if they have any level of fever and any one of the following:

  • Child is ill-appearing, lethargic, inconsolable, or in distress
  • Fever occurs in an infant 0-3 months of age
  • Fever lasts longer than 3 days
  • There are no other symptoms besides fever and fever lasts more than 24 hours
  • Fever is related to environment, such as running in extreme heat or staying in a hot car too long
  • Fever reaches 105° F or causes hallucinations
  • Fever goes away for 24 hours or more then returns
  • Any time a parent has concerns.

What can I use to help reduce my child’s fever?

You may use medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), in children of any age, or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil), in children over 6 months old, if child is hydrated, to treat any discomfort your child may experience related to the fever. You should NOT give your child aspirin to treat a fever or illness unless you are specifically instructed to do so by their medical team.

Treating your child at home with a fever-reducing medication should relieve discomfort by decreasing fussiness, lowering breathing and heart rates, and improving thirst and appetite, allowing you to evaluate your child’s overall health. If you have treated your child’s temperature with acetaminophen or ibuprofen and continue to see fast breathing, lethargy, or significant fussiness, please call their medical team.

Limiting exposure to other children and adults is important while your child is sick. Please keep your child home until they are fever-free for at least 24 hours, without taking a fever-reducing medication.

Dr. Brianna Label is a pediatrician in the Allegro Pediatrics Bothell office.

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