When your child's temperature rises, you worry. But a fever is a sign that the body is battling germs. In fact it can be beneficial, by kicking the immune system into high gear and creating a less-than-ideal environment for illness to thrive. Read on to learn how to handle the heat. 

Kate Bayless
October 26, 2015

DON'T Starve a Fever.

Ignore the old saying ("Feed a cold, starve a fever"), says pediatrician David L. Hill, M.D., author of Dad to Dad: Parenting Like a Pro. Children with a fever may be less hungry than normal, but when they do want to eat, offer a generally healthy, well-balanced diet. Nourished kids may be better able to fight infections.

DO Keep Him Hydrated.

Fever sweats can dehydrate a child, so offer lots of water (or, for vomiting and diarrhea, an electrolyte drink).

DON'T Underdress (or Overdress) Your Child.

It's natural for a kid developing a fever to want to be dressed more warmly than others in the room, and a child breaking a fever will want to cool down, but Dr. Hill recommends not to overdo it either way.

DO Consider Using a Lukewarm Compress.

If your child is vomiting and unable to keep medicine down, fill your tub with an inch or two of tepid water and use a washcloth to dribble it over your child's trunk, arms, and legs to help lower her core temperature.

3 Things To Consider Before Calling the Doctor

1. How Old is Your Child?

Generally, the younger she is, the more worrisome a fever is. Call the doctor if your baby is newborn up to 3 months and has a fever of 100.4°F or higher; your 3- to 6-month-old has a temperature of 102°F or higher; or your child older than 6 months has a fever of 103°F or higher.

2. How Long Has He Had the Fever?

For a baby 3 to 12 months, call for any fever 100.4°F or higher that lasts more than 24 hours. Call if the fever lasts two or more days with no improvement in a child between 1 and 2 years, and for kids older than 2 if it hasn't improved after three days.

3. Are There Other Symptoms?

Call if you spot certain signs that suggest an illness requiring more treatment, like strep throat, an ear infection, or a urinary-tract infection. These include: repeated vomiting and/or diarrhea; severe ear pain, headache, and/or sore throat; stiff neck, listlessness, trouble breathing, unexplained rash, signs of dehydration (fewer wet diapers, decreased or no tears).

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