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What to Do (And Not Do!) When Your Child Has A Fever

Fevers are one of the most common pediatric problems we see at GoHealth Urgent Care. It’s common for children to run a fever six times a year (or more, if they’re under age 5). Now that we’re in cold and flu season, we want to make sure parents know what to do (and not do!) when their little ones run a temperature.

Measure their temperature with a thermometer

Many parents bring their children in saying, “They were burning up last night,” but they don’t know how high the child’s temperature was because they didn’t measure it. By measuring your child’s temperature and keeping a log of the date, the time, and what their temperature was, you’ll provide helpful information that a medical provider can use to accurately diagnose and treat your child’s illness.  

Treat their fever with a fever reducer

It’s possible for a febrile child to get dehydrated even if they’re not vomiting or having diarrhea. Why? Because the hotter their skin temperature is, the faster water evaporates from it, leading to significant dehydration. By appropriately dosing your child with a fever reducer (like ibuprofen or acetaminophen), you’ll help reduce the risk of dehydration, and you’ll also help them be more comfortable since these medications also alleviate body aches, headaches, sore throats and ear pain.

Encourage them to drink plenty of fluids

Often when kids are sick, they lose their appetite and parents struggle to get them to eat. Contrary to the common myth, “Starve a fever, feed a cold,” what you really need to do is hydrate your child, no matter what the underlying issue is. They’ll be fine to go a few days without eating much food, as long as they’re drinking plenty of fluids. Offer them something with salt, sugar or electrolytes (like broth, juice, a sports drink or an oral electrolyte solution) to make sure they’re getting nutrients while they’re fighting the infection.  

You’ll know your child is drinking enough when they’re urinating every 4-6 hours, and when their urine is light yellow.

Know when to take them in for a medical evaluation

It’s common for children to run fevers, and often it’s safe to treat them at home and let the infection run its course. But it’s important to know when they need a medical evaluation and a higher level of care than what you can give them at home. If a child has a fever (a temperature > 100.4F) for more than 72 hours, profuse vomiting or diarrhea, severe pain, confusion or lethargy, they need an immediate medical evaluation. 

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