Caring for a Child With a Fever: Part 1


Contributed by Chelsea Wicks, M.D.

A child with a high fever by itself is rarely cause for concern. Fever can be treated at home with Ibuprofen or acetaminophen (no aspirin), clear fluids and a lukewarm bath.

Here Chelsea Wicks, MD, discusses the occurrence of fever among children. It can be frightening for a parent to see a thermometer reading above 101 — Dr. Wicks explains when you should be concerned.

So it’s midnight and your 2-year-old who has been fussy all day suddenly wakes up screaming. You go in to console her and realize she’s burning up. She has a temperature of 104.1. She’s never had a temperature above 101. What do you do? Rush to the Emergency Room? Call the on-call pediatrician? Call your mom? 

When Should I Worry About My Child With a Fever?

For otherwise healthy children, fever by itself is rarely a cause for immediate concern.  There are a few exceptions to this, which I’ll go over in a minute. But overall, you do not need to panic over high fever.

A fever is a sign of something going on in the body and, as mentioned above, is rarely a problem itself. It can be very difficult to know what the cause is right away so here are a few guidelines when caring for a child with a fever.

  • Begin by treating the fever with Ibuprofen or acetaminophen (no aspirin) if the child seems uncomfortable. Check the labels or speak with your doctor.
  • Push clear fluids to keep your child hydrated.
  • You can also place them in a lukewarm, not cold, bath. This can naturally bring the fever down. 

There is no magic number to worry about when a child has a fever after two months of age. In my next blog post, I’ll address signs and symptoms parents should look out for. If you have any general questions about fever, please comment on this post. For questions specific to your child’s health, talk to your child’s physician.


  1. My daughter recently had a febrile seizure. She was just shy of 16 months at the time, and fortunately it was categorized as "simple" as opposed to "complex." Any time she runs even a mild fever now, I immediately give her acetaminophen or ibuprofen to prevent another spike in temperature and another seizure. It was a truly heart-wrenching experience, and while I know now that they are harmless, I had never heard of a febrile seizure before my own experience, and I've found that many other parents haven't either.
    • Hi Seema. Here is what Dr. Wicks had to say in response to your comment: I’m sorry to hear you had to experience witnessing your child go through that. I know as a parent that can be one of the most frightening things to watch. Fortunately, febrile seizures are very rare, reportedly affecting 2-4% of children under the age of 5 years old. Unfortunately, that means it is not talked about regularly by most pediatricians. Once a child has a febrile seizure, they are more likely to have another one compared to the general population. But, it does not mean they will develop a seizure disorder, such as epilepsy. Febrile seizures do not cause any sort of brain damage or lead to any intellectual or developmental delays. However, we obviously do not want to have a child go through this if we can prevent it so we do recommend aggressive fever management in any child who has had a febrile seizure in the past. It is recommended that if your child does have a seizure related to fever, take them in to be evaluated as soon as you are able so the source of the fever can be identified and treated if needed.