The body uses a fever to fight off infections such as viral or bacterial infections. A fever serves a functional purpose in the body, but a high fever may become a health risk for your child. Knowing how to take your child's temperature properly and when to seek medical attention or treatment helps keep your child safe during a fever.
Various types of thermometers and methods of taking your child's temperature are available for home use with slight differences in readings and accuracy. Methods for taking a temperature include oral, rectal and under the armpit. Special thermometers allow you to take your child's temperature in other areas, including the ear and on the forehead. The ear thermometers aren't recommended for babies under six months as they aren't always accurate. To qualify as having a fever, your child's temperature must reach 100.4 F in the ear, rectum or temporal artery. A temperature of 100 F is considered to be a fever when taken orally. A temperature taken under the armpit is considered a fever at 99 F.
Once your child's temperature reaches the minimum to qualify as a fever, you should monitor how high it rises to know when medical attention is necessary. Recommendations on the highest safe temperature vary, but a fever reaching higher than 102 F gives you enough reason to call your child's doctor, especially if the fever doesn't respond to fever-reducing medications. Other methods to help reduce your child's fever include dressing him in light clothing, keeping the room cool and bathing him in lukewarm water. If the fever continues rising despite your fever-reducing methods, seek medical advice.
The age of your child affects the acceptable fever range and the need for medical attention. If your baby is six months or younger, call his pediatrician at any sign of fever. From six months to two years, call his doctor if the fever persists for 24 hours no matter how high it is. For children over two years, a call to the doctor is warranted if the fever lasts 72 hours or more, even if it is only a low-grade fever.
In some cases, it's not the specific temperature but the accompanying symptoms that determine the severity of your child's situation. If she experiences other severe symptoms, call her doctor even if her temperature isn't above 102 F. Potentially serious symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, changes in eating, recurring fevers, rash or pain. Seek immediate medical care for your child for severe symptoms like lethargy, blue coloring, bulging or sunken soft spot, neck stiffness, severe head pain, limpness or difficulty breathing.