When is my kid’s fever really concerning?

January 10, 2020

Mark L. Friedman, MD, FACEP, FACP

Your child wakes up in the middle of the night with pink cheeks and a hot forehead. You know to grab the thermometer and take her temperature, but then what?

Fevers are confusing, and can be caused by a variety of infections or diseases. We all know that as adults, we’re supposed to be 98.6 degrees, but is that the same for kids? How hot is too hot? When should we be concerned?


How to take an accurate temperature

When it comes to body temperature, accuracy is important. Keep a good digital thermometer at home and with you when you travel. You’ll get the most accurate reading from a rectal temperature. The second-best option is an oral temperature reading, but these are less reliable. Do not rely on forehead or axillary (armpit) temperatures.

If taking a rectal temperature sounds intimidating to you, you’re not alone. To learn more about how to properly use a digital thermometer to take temperatures, you can refer to Mayo Clinic’s instructions.

When to seek care

Sometimes, an elevated temperature doesn’t warrant treatment, other times it does. According to Mayo Clinic guidelines, here’s when to call a doctor or seek care:

  • Birth to 3 months → rectal temperature reaches 100.4 degrees → seek treatment
  • 3 months or older → temperature reaches 102.5 degrees → seek treatment

You don’t have to go to the ER for that treatment, though. If you’re one of the nearly 20% of Americans who have gone to the ER simply because it’s the only care you could access or was open, you can now breathe a sigh of relief. 24/7 telemedicine means that if you’re wondering whether a fever is serious or not sure of what to do, you simply have to log in or call.

When you do have a fever:

  • Rest
  • Drink Fluids
  • Consider if medication may be appropriate (NOTE: It isn’t always.)


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Originally published Jan 10, 2020 4:56:00 PM.