How Hot Is Too Hot When It Comes to a Fever?

01.31.2016

Colds, flu and stomach bugs are a normal part of childhood, as are the fevers that go along with them. It’s important to remember that fever is a friend, not an enemy – it’s the body’s way of fighting off an infection. This is why not all fevers need to be treated. However, it can be scary for any parent to see a temperature above 100°F on the thermometer. Here’s more about fever, and when to head into your nearest RediClinic walk-in clinic.

Fever Facts

Little Asian child has fever and laying on the bedA fever is the normal response of the body to exposure to foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria. When the body detects one of these germs, it resets body temperature to make the environment less suitable for the invader. Most bacteria cannot survive beyond a certain temperature, therefore a fever ultimately helps the body ward off infection. Following are generally accepted values for fever.

  • Rectal temperature above 100.4°F (38°C)
  • Oral temperature above 100°F (37.8°C)
  • Axillary (armpit) temperature above 99°F (37.2°C)
  • Ear (tympanic membrane) temperature above 100.4°F (38°C) in rectal mode or 99.5°F (37.5°C) in oral mode
  • Forehead (temporal artery) temperature above 100.4°F (38°C)

Fever is a symptom of illness, and suppressing a fever does not make the illness go away. In most cases, moderate to high fevers (up to 103°F) should be allowed to run their course to aid the body in fighting off infection. If your child is well-hydrated and breathing comfortably, it may be best to not treat a fever.

When to Treat a Fever

If your child is irritable and uncomfortable due to a fever, you may choose to administer acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Carefully follow the label guidelines for proper dosage according to your child’s weight. Avoid giving aspirin to children or teens due to the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome.

When to Consult a Clinician

RediClinic walk-in clinics treat adults and children 18 months and older. Patients should consult a clinician in the following cases.

  • A fever is 103°F or higher.
  • A fever doesn’t respond to medication or lasts longer than three days.

Seek emergency medical attention if any of the following signs or symptoms accompanies a fever.

  • Severe headache
  • Sore throat or throat swelling
  • Worsening skin rash
  • Sudden sensitivity to bright light
  • Difficulty breathing or chest pain
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Extreme irritability or listlessness
  • Abdominal pain or pain when urinating
  • Any other unexplained signs or symptoms