Knowing When A Child Has A Fever

how to tell if your child has a fever

How To Know When A Child Has A Fever

A commonly asked question by many new parents is “How do I know if my child has a fever?” Getting a fever is a very common self-defense mechanism used by the body to fight off infection, and is actually a positive thing so no reason to fret. It shows your child’s immune system is working and responding to threats.

Most children don’t like holding still when they feel well, let alone when their body hurts while someone is trying to take their temperature. There are several ways to find out your child’s temperature. Orally, auxillary (or under the arm), temporal, tympanically, or rectally. These methods are used for different age groups.

Methods For Testing For Fever

  • Rectally – This method uses a digital thermometer which after being cleaned and lubricated, is inserted into the rectum. When doing this it is easier to accomplish if the child has been placed either on their belly in your lap or face up . Typically when you are trying to take an infants temperature ages birth to six months you would use this method.
  • Temporal Artery Readers – When taking the temperature with the temporal artery the reader accuracy takes practice. With the right technique and multiple readings you can average the temperature. The reader picks up the temperature from the arteries in the forehead and displays the proper temperature. This can be used on any age group but is not in the top for recommendations regarding the accuracy. It is easily swayed, so be sure the forehead is dry, because sweat is one of the main issues with this type of thermometer.
  • Tympanically – This is a great option for anyone older than 6 months. It is fast and easy and most of the time a a parent taking care of a feverish kid appreciates things being done quickly and accurately. The main concern with this method is proper placement. It is used by inserting the probe into the ear and it reads the temperature of the eardrum itself. If wax is blocking the canal or the probe is not properly placed the reading will not be precise. This specific type of reading is Not recommended for babies younger than 6 months because the canal of the ear is not large enough to reach the ear drum.
  • Auxillary – When your child is older than 6 months it can be tempting to use this option in place of the rectal thermometer. A digital thermometer is placed in the in the fold of the armpit and the arm placed down by the side. This type of reading is not always the most accurate.
  • Orally – This is the tried and true method when it comes to taking temperatures in anyone over the age of 4 who is willing to cooperate. Oral readings with a child who holds their mouth shut is a great option when looking for accuracy. With a cooperative child you can have them hold the thermometer under their tongue and ask them to close their mouth.

Healthy children have nothing to fear from a fever most of the time. Around a decade ago there was a jump in antibiotic use resulting in many individuals being over medicated, this being said, not every fever calls for a dose of medication, whether that be an antibiotic to treat the infection or a fever reducer.

Not sure what to do? Consult your family physician.

Top 3 Things to Know about a Fever

  • All fevers are not created equally. As I have stated above the use of a fever reducer is not always a necessity. In the case of a high fever, or if you believe your child is feeling uncomfortable a fever reducer can be used to help reduce things like pain or muscle aches that typically accompany a fever.
  • A fever can increase the risk of dehydration. Dehydration is a serious issue, and can create further issues, especially in small children and infants. So remember staying hydrated is important.
  • When dealing with high fever it is better to be safe than sorry. It is imminent to seek medical attention quickly if your child has a fever of 104 or higher.
  • Children that are between the ages of 3 months and 3 years are more delicate than your teenager, be sure to make an appointment with their doctor for an evaluation to find the cause of the fever.


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