Fever in Children: When to Worry

With reports of flu cases at elevated levels in nearly all regions of the country, health officials are urging adults and children to take precautions to ward off infection. Children are among those most at risk, and so far this flu season, eight children have died due to complications from the virus, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.

Fever is one of the first symptoms of the flu and one of the most common reasons parents call or visit the pediatrician. Fever in children can spike rapidly and knowing when to call the doctor is important.

“What I tell parents is anything over 100.4 degrees is considered a fever and an early sign of infection,” says Francisco Medina, M.D., medical director of the The Betty Jane France Children’s Emergency Center at Homestead Hospital. “If the fever reaches 104 degrees, it usually means a serious infection and is cause to call the pediatrician or visit the emergency center.”

(The Baptist Health News Team hears from Francisco Medina, M.D., medical director of the Children’s Emergency Center at Homestead Hospital, about guidelines for treating fever in children. Video by George Carvalho.)

When fever exists, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to call their child’s doctor right away if it’s accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • A temperature that rises above 104°F repeatedly.
  • A seizure has occurred.
  • A temperature of 100.4°F or higher in a baby younger than 3 months.
  • A stiff neck, severe headache, severe sore throat or severe ear pain.
  • Unexplained rash.
  • Repeated vomiting or diarrhea.
  • The child looks very ill, is unusually drowsy or is very fussy.
  • Immune system problems, such as sickle cell disease or cancer, or if the child is taking steroids.
  • A fever persists for more than 24 hours in a child younger than 2 years.
  • Fever that persists for more than 3 days (72 hours) in a child 2 years of age or older.

Parents should also call the doctor if the child still “acts sick” — or he or she seems to be getting worse — even when the fever is brought down, the AAP says.

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