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"Understanding Fever in Children: When to Worry and When to Take Action"

Updated: Apr 12

Fever and children

Use a digital thermometer to check the child’s temperature. Don’t use a mercury thermometer. There are different kinds and uses of digital thermometers. They include:

· Rectal. For children younger than 3 years, a rectal temperature is the most accurate.

· Forehead (temporal). This works for children age 3 months and older. If a child under 3 months old has signs of illness, this can be used for a first pass. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

· Ear (tympanic). Ear temperatures are accurate after 6 months of age, but not before.

· Armpit (axillary). This is the least reliable but may be used for a first pass to check a child of any age with signs of illness. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

· Mouth (oral). Don’t use a thermometer in your child’s mouth until he or she is at least 4 years old.

Use the rectal thermometer with care. Follow the product maker’s directions for correct use. Insert it gently. Label it and make sure it’s not used in the mouth. It may pass on germs from the stool. If you don’t feel OK using a rectal thermometer, ask the doctor what type to use instead.

When you talk with any paediatrician about your child’s fever, tell him or her which type you used.

Below are guidelines to know if your young child has a fever. The child’s paediatrician may give you different numbers for your child. Follow your provider’s specific instructions.

Fever readings for a baby under

3 months old:

First, ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

· Rectal or forehead: 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

· Armpit: 99°F (37.2°C) or higher

Fever readings for a child age 3 months to 36 months (3 years):

· Rectal, forehead, or ear: 102°F (38.9°C) or higher

· Armpit: 101°F (38.3°C) or higher

Call the paediatrician in these cases:

· Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher in a child of any age

· Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher in baby younger than 3 months

· Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under age 2

· Fever that lasts for 3 days in a child age 2 or older

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