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What to Do When Your Toddler Has a Fever

Doctor Q&A

We all know that a fever is a common occurrence among toddlers, but although it’s common, when it happens to your child (and it will), you’ll want your questions answered… and fast.


Your first question:


How can I break the fever?

The answer is a bit complicated. Because a fever is a result of something else going on in the body, you can’t force it away unless you can resolve the underlying issue.


And although treating a fever is more for your child’s comfort than it is to “break it,” there are some things you can do to manage a fever.


Will it help to medicate my child?

  • Tylenol or Advil can reduce a fever, and both are appropriate for toddlers. 
  • Aspirin should NEVER be given to children of any age.

**Note pertaining to infants:  Ibuprofen can ONLY be used for children OVER 6 MONTHS of age.


Am I supposed to starve a fever or feed a fever?

This age-old question is not as relevant as this basic answer:

THE IMPORTANT THING IS HYDRATION.


When kids have a fever and aren’t feeling well, they will likely not be interested in eating, which is fine for short periods of time. 

  • But it is extremely important for them to stay well-hydrated. Your number-one job is to encourage fluids, giving small sips frequently and monitoring for signs of dehydration. Try offering:
  • Small sips of water
  • Diluted juice
  • An electrolyte solution, such a Pedialyte

Ensure that your child is urinating every six to eight hours.


What else should I do?

  • Follow these tips:
  • Place your child in a tepid (slightly warm) bath. Using a sponge or washcloth to spread water over the trunk, arms and legs may be soothing and help bring the fever down.
  • Keep your home at a comfortable, cool temperature. A fan may help keep the cool air moving as well.
  • Dress your child in a light amount of clothing.
  • If your child has a highly contagious disease, e.g., influenza or chicken pox, keep him/her away from others. 

When should I seek help?

  • Generally, if the fever is due to a virus, it could last three to five days and will go away naturally.
  • Beyond three to five days, if your child is still having fevers, you should seek the advice of a doctor. If there is a complicating bacterial process, an antibiotic will be prescribed. In rare cases, there are some non-infectious causes of fevers, such as autoimmune diseases or malignancy.
  • If your child is very drowsy or very irritable, has a stiff neck or severe headache, has a problem with his/her immune system, or shows signs of dehydration (dry mouth, not crying tears, or not urinating at least every six to eight hours), he/she should be seen.

**Note pertaining to infants: If your child is less than 3 months old, evaluation by a medical professional is warranted for a fever greater than 100.4 F.


What are the risks of leaving a fever untreated?

If your child has a history of febrile seizures, it is important to treat the fever.


Otherwise, supporting him/her through a viral process with fluids, encouraged rest and careful monitoring will help prevent complications.


To have your child evaluated, call Shawnee Mission Primary Care – Internal Medicine & Pediatrics at (913) 373-2230.