Fever in Children: Medic and When to See a Doctor

Fever is the most common concern prompting parents to bring their child to the emergency department or urgent care.

Fever is not an illness per se but a sign that the body is trying to fight an underlying foreign attack on the human body. As the body encounters a foreign invasion, its defense mechanism enables the various infection-fighting cells to ward off any impending illness.

A rise in the body temperature above the average of 100.4°F (38°C) measured rectally is termed as fever.

A fever itself is not life-threatening unless it is extremely and persistently high. In most cases, there is nothing to worry about, as a fever is usually a normal response of a child’s immune system to a viral or bacterial infection. Most healthy children can tolerate a fever well enough.

What Causes Fever in Children?

Some common reasons that cause fever in children are:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Viral infections
  • Side effects of medications
  • Overuse of medications
  • Heat exposure and allergies
  • The body’s response to immunization or vaccines
  • Ear infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Certain inflammatory diseases

What are the Symptoms of Fever in Children?

Aside from the rise in the average body temperature, fever in children can show up on their faces.

  • May look pale with tired eyes and a red face.
  • Chills
  • Body aches and/or headaches
  • Sweating or feeling flushed
  • Loss of activity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness or lack of energy
  • In small children, irritability, crankiness, feeling tired, and crying more often

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends measuring the rectal temperature to accurately determine the body temperature in children aged 4 years and below.

Range of Normal Temperature for a Child

The following are normal temperature levels according to the method chosen:

Body part Range of normal temperature
Rectum 36.6 ˚C to 38.4 ˚C (97.9 ˚F to 101.1 ˚F)
Mouth 35.5 ˚C to 37.9 ˚C (95.9 ˚F to 100.2 ˚F)
Ear 35.8 ˚C to 38.0 ˚C (96.4 ˚F to 100.4 ˚F)
Armpit 34.7 ˚C to 37.4 ˚C (94.5 ˚F to 99.3 ˚F)

You can use this chart as a reference to determine whether your child’s temperature is normal so you can follow a course of action accordingly.

Treatment for Fever in Children

The treatment for fever in children includes bringing down the temperature of the child’s body to ease the discomfort.

  • You can give him medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help decrease his body temperature. Never ever give aspirin to a child as it can cause Reye’s syndrome.
  • Give him plenty of rest.
  • Do not overdress your child. Overdressing can cause a spike in body temperature.
  • If your child is below 6 months old, breastfeed him/her frequently. Breastfeeding is fine at any age if they are still doing it.
  • Give your child plenty of liquids to maintain his fluid balance. Keep him hydrated.

How to Ease Fever in Children with Medic?

Although fevers are not usually a cause for serious concern, seeing your child suffer can be heartbreaking. However, when children have a fever, they do not always need to be given medication to lower their temperature.

You can manage your child’s fever by following these natural remedies.

1. Give them a Lukewarm Bath

Cooling the body from the outside is very effective in reducing body temperature.

When your child develops a fever, the first thing to do is to give your child a lukewarm bath. A lukewarm bath will help regulate body temperature. It will also help your child relax, sleep better, and recover fast.

However, avoid a cold bath, as it can shock the body into trying to raise the internal thermostat even more.

A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Applied Research reports that immersing the body or part of the body in a water bath stimulates circulation and reduces body temperature.

  • You can give your child a lukewarm tub bath or sponge bath, depending upon which is more comfortable for your child. It can be done two to three times a day.
  • As an alternative, you can put a cool, wet washcloth on your child’s forehead. As the water from the wet washcloth evaporates from the skin, it will draw the fever out and the temperature will come down quickly.
  1. Soak a clean washcloth in cool water and wring out the excess water.
  2. Place the wet cloth on your child’s forehead.
  3. Once the cloth warms, remove it and repeat the application.
  4. Do this until the fever has reduced sufficiently.
Note: Do not use freezing water, as it may cause the internal body temperature to rise.

2. Keep them Hydrated

For children suffering from a fever, it is vital to increase their fluid intake. Fluids will help cool them down and replace the fluid lost through sweating. This will also prevent dehydration, which may lead to various other complications and delay recovery.

This remedy is also helpful for dengue fever. A 2017 study published in PLOS One reports that improved oral fluid intake in patients with suspected dengue fever reduced hospitalization and intravenous fluid requirements.

  • Give your child an oral rehydration solution (either homemade or readily available in the drugstore) along with lukewarm water from time to time.
  • Cold milk, coconut water, homemade fruit juice, fruits rich in water, broth, ice pops, and yogurt can also be given to children.

Because of the fever and associated discomfort, children may refuse large amounts of fluid at a time. So, give them smaller amounts frequently.

3. Let them Rest

Irrespective of whether a child or an adult is suffering from a fever, adequate rest and sleep is a must.

When your child rests, his body can dedicate his energy to healing rather than distributing for other activities.

Also, through sleep, the body will have the energy and time it needs to fight the causative agents. So, it becomes essential to make your child rest or relax as much as possible.

If your child is reluctant to sleep or cannot sit in one place for a long time, pick activities that restrict his movement such as coloring, solving puzzles, or playing with a favorite toy.

You can also switch on the television and play your child’s favorite movie or videos.

4. Keep them in a Cool Place

When your child has a fever, you need to keep him in a cool place. The temperature of the room should not be too hot or too cold. Try to keep your child’s room at a comfortable temperature between 70°F and 74°F (between 21.1 °C and 23.3 °C).

  • If using a fan, keep it on a low setting. However, make sure your child is not sleeping directly under the fan.
  • If using an air conditioner, keep the temperature at a comfortable level. Make sure your child is not shivering, as this can raise the body’s temperature.
  • Also, avoid using the room heater nonstop, as it can make your baby overheated.

Additionally, dress your child in light clothing and have him sleep with only a sheet or light blanket. Bundling up your sick child with layers of clothes or extra blankets will keep the temperature from going down or even make it go higher.

5. Dietary Additions to Promote Fast Recovery

a) Give a Ginger Concoction to Your Child

An excellent way to treat a low fever is to use ginger.

Ginger helps the body expel heat, which in turn helps reduce the temperature. Its antibacterial and antiviral properties make it effective against any kind of infection. Plus, it boosts the immune system, aiding in the recovery process.

  • Mix a ½ teaspoon of ginger juice, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of honey. Give this mixture to your child two to three times daily until the fever is gone.
  • Another option is to mix 2 tablespoons of ginger powder into a bathtub filled with warm water. Soak your child in this bathwater for 10 minutes. Pat his skin dry and cover him entirely with a blanket. Soon, your child will start sweating, and the fever will come down.

b) Make Your Child Drink Basil Juice

A herb for all reasons, basil is useful in bringing down fever in children.

It has antibiotic and antibacterial properties that can help get rid of the bacteria that may be causing the fever. Moreover, it boosts the immune system, which is vital for the healing process. Basil leaves can help reduce the heat in the body as well.

  • Put a handful of basil leaves in 2 cups of water. Boil it until the solution is reduced to half. Add a little honey and let it cool. Give it to your child a few times a day.
  • You can also give your child some thoroughly washed basil leaves to chew at regular intervals.
  • Another option is to extract the juice of 5-7 basil leaves. Add a pinch of freshly ground black pepper to the juice and give it to your child two to three times a day until the fever is gone.

A study in 2014 published that holy basil can be used as a treatment for cough, asthma, fever, and diarrhea.

c) Serve Warm Soup to Your Child

Feeding your child high-nutrition foods at regular intervals is a must to help him recover from the illness.

As the body becomes weak from the fever, it is important to follow a special diet to provide proper nutrition. A good diet will also help balance the body’s fluids and electrolytes and boost the immune system.

The diet recommended for your child is a high-calorie, high-protein, low-fat, and high-fluid diet.

  • Bone broth or chicken soup with vegetables is ideally the best option for your child. Bone broth has a high content of cartilage, which helps in the generation of white blood cells that defend the body against infections. Also, bone broth is easily digestible.
  • Vegetarians can go for carrot soup and other healthy vegetable soups and broths.
  • High-carbohydrate foods must also be included in your child’s diet to meet the body’s energy requirements. Spicy, fatty, and high-fiber foods need to be avoided, as they are difficult to digest.

Due to a loss of appetite, do not expect your child to eat the right amount. Feed your child every 2 hours initially, and as they feel better, you may reduce the frequency to once every four hours.

Risk Factors Associated with Fever in Children

Some children can be frequently down with an episode of fever. This might be due to an underlying disease that must be reviewed by a pediatrician, such as:

Complications Related to Fever in Children

Fever can affect the overall health of your child and cause complications including:

  • Dehydration
  • Convulsions
  • Febrile seizures

A seizure lasting for more than 5 minutes calls for emergency care. Call 911 immediately.

It is essential to get a medical review in case of a fever lasting for longer than 3 days or in a child under 2 months to avoid any severe consequences on the health of your child.

When to See a Doctor

Check in with your child’s doctor if your child:

  • Has a high-grade fever of 104°F (over 40 °C)
  • Is younger than 3 months
  • Has a fever accompanied by a rash
  • Is shivering uncontrollably
  • Has a fever lasting more than 3 days
  • Has a temperature that does not go down with medications
  • Is not being himself, low on energy, or lethargic

Additional Tips

  • Doctors may prescribe antibiotics if your child has a bacterial infection that is causing the fever. Antibiotics cannot be used to treat viral infections.
  • If your child has frequent fevers, consider talking to your child’s doctor about additional testing.
  • Make sure your child does not participate in any strenuous activities, as such could elevate the body temperature.
  • Small children should never be given aspirin for an illness. It may increase the risk of a rare, but fatal condition called Reye’s syndrome.
  • Do not expose your child to direct sunlight while he has a fever.
  • Avoid excessive exposure to public places, as a weak body is vulnerable to infections.
  • Smoking suppresses the body’s immune system, so make sure that your child is not exposed to passive smoke from cigarettes or any other tobacco products.


  1. Barbi E, Marzuillo P, Neri E, Naviglio S, Krauss BS. Fever in Children: Pearls and Pitfalls. Children (Basel, Switzerland). . Published September 1, 2017.
  2. Niehues T. The febrile child: diagnosis and treatment. Deutsches Arzteblatt international. . Published November 2013.
  3. Fever in children: Overview. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. . Published November 17, 2016.
  4. Fever in children: How can you reduce a fever? InformedHealth.org [Internet]. . Published November 17, 2016.
  5. Pereira AC, Sebastian S. Effectiveness of hot water foot bath therapy in reduction of temperature among children (6-12 years) with fever in selected hospitals at Mangaluru. International Journal of Applied Research. . Published January 1, 2018.
  6. Nasir NH, Mohamad M, Lum LCS, Ng CJ. Effectiveness of a fluid chart in the outpatient management of suspected dengue fever: A pilot study. PloS one. . Published October 4, 2017.
  7. Cohen MM. Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine. . Published 2014.
  8. Raal A, Volmer D, Sõukand R, Hratkevitš S, Kalle R. Complementary treatment of the common cold and flu with medicinal plants–results from two samples of pharmacy customers in Estonia. PloS one. .
  9. Cohen MM. Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine. . Published 2014.

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Published by
Karen M. Walker, MD, FAAP

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