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Children generally have higher fevers than do adults. The severity of the illness, however, depends on the age of the child. A temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit in a 3-year-old child may not indicate a serious illness. However, a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit in a child under 3 months can be very serious.
If the child has no other symptoms, consult a doctor for the following:
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- The temperature is higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit in an infant under 8 weeks.
- The temperature is higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit in a child under 4 months.
- The temperature is higher than 103 degrees Fahrenheit in a child younger than 2 years.
- The temperature is higher than 105 degrees Fahrenheit and is not responding to home treatment.
- The temperature is higher than 106 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The child has had a fever for more than 5 days.
Call your child’s doctor right away if your child has one or more of the following symptoms:
- He does not smile or play for even a few minutes every four-hours
- He shows signs of dehydration (drying out): No urine in six hours in an infant younger than 12 months old; No urine in more than eight hours in a child older than 12 months old; No tears when crying; Sunken eyes; Dry lips and mouth
- Vomits more than 2 times.
- He is not comfortable, even when held
- He seems to be breathing hard or fast even after the fever has been treated with medicine.
- He develops a rash
- The fever lasts more than three days
- He complains of any persistent pain such as earache, pain with voiding or stomach pain.
- For a baby less than 2 months old with any fever who has not yet been checked by a doctor for the fever.
- For a baby 2-6 months old with a fever more than 102.2°F (rectally) who has not yet been checked by a doctor for the fever.
- For a baby 6-24 months old with a fever more than 103°F (rectally) who has not yet been checked by a doctor for the fever.
- You have any concerns about how your child looks or feels.
Check with your child’s doctor about when to call for a fever if your child:
- Sees a doctor or specialist for a medical condition on a regular basis.
- Has had urinary tract infections (UTI) in the past.
The definition of fever for each age does vary slightly among pediatricians, but here are some general guidelines.
- Call immediately if your baby is younger than 3 months and has a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. If the pediatrician can’t be reached, go to the emergency department.
- If your infant is older than 3 months with a temperature above 102°F (39°C), call your pediatrician. The doctor will likely ask you about other symptoms (eg, cough, cold, vomiting, diarrhea) and how your child is acting overall to help determine if you need to bring your child in for evaluation or if you can wait and watch him at home for a few days.
- For children older than 6 months, a temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher warrants a call (you’ll probably be calling before you read this anyway). Otherwise, they can be watched at home as long as they are alert, interactive, and drinking fluids. If the symptoms aren’t improving in 2 or 3 days or they are worsening, see your pediatrician.
When your child has a fever, call your doctor if:
- You have a newborn baby under 90 days old who develops a fever, call immediately!
- Your child is having difficulty breathing.
- Your child has a fever above 104 degrees F (40 degrees C) or fever that will not go down after you give acetaminophen.
- Your child vomits (throws up) frequently or with unusual force.
- Your child has a seizure.
- Your child has a stiff neck.
- Your child looks ill, cries constantly, seems to be in pain, or is unresponsive or overly sleepy, whether there is a temperature or not.
- Your child has difficulty taking fluids or there are fewer wet diapers.
- Your child has a low fever (under 101 degrees F) continuing more than 48 hours, even if your child seems well.
Some people are confused about when to call the doctor if their child has a fever. Learn from Drs. Oz and Jennifer Trachtenberg in this video about what to do when a fever spikes.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.