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Four Myths About Treating Fevers in Children

January 7, 2019



Fevers can be scary. They often make your child appear more ill than they actually are, however they are an important symptom of your child’s well-functioning immune system fighting off illness. 


Myth #1: Give your child medication to bring their temperature back to normal. 


The primary goal of treating your child with a fever is to improve their overall comfort, not to normalize their body temperature. There is no evidence that fever itself worsens the course of an illness or that is causes long-term neurologic complications.



The primary goal of treating your child with a fever is to improve their overall comfort, not to normalize their body temperature.


Therefore, monitor your child’s activity level, mental status, and hydration status when they develop a fever. Medication is recommended when their fever is inhibiting their ability to drink or eat properly or rest appropriately during their illness.


Myth #2: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is better to use than ibuprofen (Motrin) (or vice versa).


There is no difference in the safety and/or effectiveness of these medications in a generally healthy child with fever. Although there is some conflicting data in recent research, infants less than 6 months old should not receive ibuprofen. 


Older children can use either medication, and there is some evidence that they may benefit from utilizing both medications simultaneously if necessary. Dosing is weight dependent, so utilize dosing charts on the medication bottle/box or contact your child’s pediatrician’s office if you are unsure of proper dosing.



Myth #3: Children must see their pediatrician when they have a fever. 


Not every fever illness indicates a visit to the doctor. Here’s some guidelines to know when it is necessary to take your fevering child to see the pediatrician.


  • An infant less than 1 month old should be taken to the emergency department immediately, due to a higher risk of a serious bacterial infection.

  • An infant 1-3 months old should be seen by their pediatrician on day 1 of fever. Sometimes this will necessitate an urgent care evaluation. Call your child’s pediatrician to get their advice.

  • Infants 3 months or older can be monitored closely at home. Evaluation by the pediatrician should occur after 48 hours of fever, sooner if any other concerns develop.

  • Toddlers and school-age children can also be monitored closely at home. They should be evaluated by their pediatrician if their fever is present for >5 days, if their fever is present for >2 days with associated ear pain, or if their fever is >102F for >2 days with thick nasal discharge.

  • During flu season (October – March) if you are concerned your child may have influenza, then have them tested by their pediatrician during the first 48 hours of their illness. If testing is positive, then treatment with an antiviral medication, if necessary, will be most effective.


Myth #4: Children are fine to go to daycare when their fever normalizes.  


It depends on the final diagnosis (source of fever), however a good rule of thumb is to keep your child at home until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours. Ask your doctor if you are unsure of when your child should return.



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