Fever means that the body temperature is higher than normal. The average normal body temperature is 98.6 F. Most people agree that a fever is a rectal temperature greater than 100.4 F or an oral temperature greater than 99.5 F. Temperatures below normal are usually not worrisome unless they occur in very young babies.
Fever itself is not an illness but is a sign that the body is fighting an infection. Fever itself is generally beneficial and not harmful to a child.
Although fever doesn't cause damage, it can make a child uncomfortable. The usual reason for trying to lower a child's fever is to make him or her more comfortable. If your child is uncomfortable with a fever, you will generally see him or her act much better after you have cooled him or her down. We recommend the following when your child has a fever:
Always check temperature with a thermometer. Feeling the forehead for a skin temperature is not a reliable indicator of fever. In babies, check the temperature rectally. Ear thermometers are not accurate in babies. In older children, check the temperature by mouth or under the arm.
Call our office immediately for any temperature greater than 100.4 F rectally in a baby under three months old. A newborns physiologic response to an illness is immature, and unfortunately they do not always show the symptoms they are "supposed to" for a particular illness. Thus, fever in this age group (rectal temperature above 100.4 F) may be the only sign of a serious illness. For that reason, all infants less than 3 months with a fever should be examined.
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