Why High Fever Temperatures Can Be Deceiving

From 2 Months to 2 Years

Once your baby is older than 2 months, fever alone no longer constitutes an emergency. Doctors recommend focusing less on the thermometer reading, even if it's 104 degrees, and more on how your child looks and acts. Is he limp and lethargic or alert and eating? Of course, a fever may cause a certain amount of irritability in itself.

You can lower baby's fever with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or, for babies older than 6 months, ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil). "Once the temperature is down, that's the time to really assess your child," says Andrea Jill Leeds, MD, a pediatrician in Bellmore, New York. "If she's playful and seems more herself, then you know it was the fever making her uncomfortable. But if she's still out of it, listless, or unresponsive, call your doctor -- something more serious may be going on."

When giving fever-reducing medicine, be sure to carefully read dosing instructions. Ibuprofen should not be given to babies younger than 6 months or to children who are vomiting or dehydrated. And never give aspirin to a child because it may cause Reye's syndrome, a potentially fatal liver condition.

For a fever that responds well to medication, and especially if it's accompanied by obvious cold (cough, stuffy nose) or stomach bug symptoms (minor diarrhea), your doctor may advise you to stay home but to call if symptoms worsen or don't improve in a day or two. However, if a fever persists for longer than three days or is your child's only symptom, see your pediatrician. It could be that your baby has a bacterial infection, often an ear infection, which may require an antibiotic.

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