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Baby with Teddy Bear

What is a fever?

A fever means your child’s body temperature is above normal. A fever is part of the body’s immune system fighting infection. Call the doctor any time a baby less than 4 months has a rectal temperature greater than 100.4 ° F. Between four and six months of age, fevers greater than 102 require a call to the doctor.

What causes fever?

Most fevers are caused by viral infections, such as colds or coughs. In some cases fever can be caused by bacterial infections, such as strep throat, ear infections or bladder infections. Teething does not cause high fever.

How long will it last?

Most fevers with viral illnesses last for 2-3 days. In general, the height of the fever does not relate to the seriousness of the illness. What is most important is how your child is acting.

How can I take care of my child when there is a fever?

Don't panic! In most cases, the fever is caused by a virus and will last only 1-3 days. Encourage you child to drink extra fluids. Popsicles and cold drinks are helpful. Body fluids are lost during fevers because of sweating. Dressing in light clothing(even if child is feeling chilled) will help cool the body and decrease the fever. If the fever is making your child uncomfortable or there is pain such as a sore throat or ear ache, then fever/pain meds can help make the child more comfortable. A fever does not have to be treated as long as the child is alert, smiling and drinking fluids.

Medicines to reduce fever

Remember that fever is helping your child fight infection. Fevers only need to be treated with medicine if they are causing discomfort such as headache/body aches. In general, if your child is sleeping comfortably, it is not necessary to wake him or her to give medicines. 

When needed, safe fever medications include:

- Acetaminophen (Tylenol): children over 2 months of age can be given Tylenol.

- Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil): approved for infants over 6 months.

Correct dosing can be found on our Medication Doses page or on your child’s check-up handout.

**Avoid Aspirin: Children should not take aspirin for fevers. Aspirin taken during a viral illness, such as the flu, has been linked to a severe illness called Reye syndrome. If you have teens, warn them to avoid aspirin.


A lukewarm (not cold) sponge bath may soothe a child with fevers. Never sponge a feverish child with alcohol.

When should I call my healthcare provider? Call IMMEDIATELY if:

  • Your child is less than 4 months old and has a fever.

  • Your child looks or acts very sick (fever along with severe headache, confusion, 
stiff neck, trouble breathing, rash or refusing to drink.)

Other non-emergent reasons to call for advice and appointments: 

  • your child has had fever more than 24 hours without an obvious cause(such as a cold) AND your child is less than 2 years old.

  • Your child has had a fever for more than 3 days.

  • The fever went away for over 24 hours and then returned and the child is acting more sick.

  • You have any other questions or concerns.

(P) 781-944-4250 (F) 781-944-2276

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