Why Do Fevers Happen?

    Fevers often happen when a child has an infection or other illness. A fever helps the body stimulate the immune system to fight the infection or illness. Experts believe turning up the heat makes the body a less comfortable place for germs that cause illness.

    In healthy kids, fevers aren’t usually a sign of a serious problem.

    When Is a Fever a Sign of Something Serious?

    A fever can be serious for:

    • Infants younger than 3 months: If an infant younger than 3 months has a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, call your doctor or go to the emergency department right away.
    • Kids with some health conditions: If your child has an ongoing health issue, make sure you know if the doctor should be called for fever.

    If your child has a fever and other symptoms, like a stomachache or sore throat, call the doctor. A good sign that it’s nothing serious is if your child is 3 months or older and:

    • is still interested in playing
    • is drinking well
    • is alert and smiling
    • has a normal skin color
    • looks well when their temperature comes down

    What Else Should I Know?

    Fevers usually don’t need treatment. Home care (rest, plenty of fluids) often is enough to manage a fever. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can ease discomfort, but kids or teens should not take aspirin, which has been linked to a rare but serious illness called Reye syndrome.

    Kids with a fever should stay home from school, work, or childcare until their temperature has been normal for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicines.

    All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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