If you have a digital thermometer, the procedures for taking a temperature
and caring for the thermometer are quite similar to those above. As readouts
and signals vary among differing products, consult the accompanying
Two common errors in using a digital thermometer are shifting it around in and opening the mouth. Doing so exposes the thermometer to a cooler temperature and may result in inaccurate readings. With a digital thermometer, place the probe tip in the correct area as shown.
Simple and accurate, ear thermometers are also expensive. When using one:
Different types of thermometers are used to take oral and rectal temperatures. Be sure you use the right kind of thermometer for the place where you are putting it! Readings also vary slightly depending on where on the body the temperature is taken (see Taking Temperature sidebar). Use an oral thermometer for children over age four. Since younger children might bite the thermometer, the rectal method is best for them. An axillary (armpit) temperature can also be taken, but is not as accurate. Ear thermometers are fast, easy to use and more accurate; they are also expensive.
Most often, the body produces a fever as a reaction to infection. Other diseases can also cause fever, but are quite rare. As the bodys immune system fights off viruses or bacteria, body temperature rises. Since this may actually help fight infection, not every rise in temperature needs to be treated. Generally, a low grade fever (less than 38.5°C / 101°F) can be left untreated. But if something seems wrong with your child, their actions or appearance, get medical help no matter what the thermometer reads.
Some consequences of fever can be serious. Hot skin evaporates moisture quickly, so dehydration can happen easily. A high temperature can irritate the brain, causing confusion, hallucinations and seizures. These seizures, called febrile convulsions, usually happen in young children with high fevers. A febrile convulsion does not mean a child has epilepsy. However, since another seizure could happen with the next fever, these children need to be watched closely.
Treating a fever means bringing down the temperature and preventing dehydration. Encouraging a child to drink enough fluids is essential. Most sick children do not feel like eating or drinking. They can avoid eating for days with few ill effects, but they must drink. A steady supply of fluid offered in small amounts is necessary, especially if the child is vomiting.
Watch for a dry mouth, lack of tears, or skin that stays puckered when pinched. If any of these signs are present, your child is dehydrated. Fluids are needed urgently. Intravenous fluids are the fastest way to correct serious dehydration. Contact your family doctor immediately.
If your child does not seem dehydrated, bring temperature down by keeping the child cool. Use lightweight clothing and just a sheet or light blanket on the bed. If the weather is hot, direct an electric fan over the child. If these measures fail, try sponging with lukewarm water to bring down the fever. If the child is having chills, do not use cooling techniques. Shivering will raise the temperature more!
Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA, Aspirin) is no longer recommended for children with fever. Reyes syndrome, a potentially fatal disease, has been linked with ASA use in children with viral illnesses such as chicken pox and influenza. Until more is known, avoid using ASA for those under age 16.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tempra or Panadol) and ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) are very effective in treating fever. Dosage depends on the childs size (see table). In general, use 10 to 15 mg of acetaminophen or 5 to 10 mg of ibuprofen per pound of body weight. Give acetaminophen every four to six hours and ibuprofen every six to eight hours, as needed. The Canadian Pediatric Society suggests always using acetaminophen first. Try ibuprofen only if acetaminophen does not reduce the fever.
Your child has a fever. You have been keeping the room cool and are giving fluids along with acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed. Should you seek a doctors advice? Not all fevers require a doctors care. If the fever is low and associated with typical cold symptoms, it will usually go away on its own in a few days. Your childs behavior can help you decide whether or not to contact your doctor.
Some fevers are serious and must be assessed by a doctor.
Fever is not a disease in itself. It is a symptom of a wide range of problems. It can be caused by minor illnesses like cold or flu or serious ones such as kidney infections and meningitis. Your childs behavior is an important guideline. An active, happy child is unlikely to have any serious infection, while a listless, whining one is more likely to need medical care. By following the guidelines within this article, you can manage most simple fevers at home while watching for the warning signs of a fever with a serious cause.
Best for infants under 3 months of age
Suitable for children between 3 months and 4-5 years
Suitable for children over 4-5 years
Suitable for children over 6 months of age
This method should not be used for children under three months of age.
This method is best for children under three months.