The No-Panic Guide to Fevers

It's hard to keep your cool when your kid is burning up. We asked doctors what you should (and shouldn't) do the next time it happens.

Before You... Panic

Remember: A fever is not an illness. It's usually just a sign that your child's immune system is fighting off a bacterial or viral infection, says Michael Devon, MD, a pediatrician in private practice near Philadelphia. Most of the bugs that cause a fever -- such as a cold, the flu, a stomach virus -- aren't dangerous and are treatable at home.

Check your child's other symptoms. How she acts and feels is usually a better indicator of how sick she is. (In fact, if your child has a high fever that doesn't mean she's sicker than if she has a low-grade one.) "If your child is lethargic, irritable, has a sore throat, ear or stomach pain, or pain when she urinates, call your doctor," says Dr. Devon. (Can't find any obvious source of infection? That also warrants a call.) And always get help immediately if you have a feverish baby under 3 months old, no matter what her symptoms are. Infants that young are more susceptible to certain types of infections, so your pediatrician needs to rule out serious illnesses right away.

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