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What is considered a Temperature?

Question of the Day

Subject: Fever

Q: Two questions about fever: What is considered a temperature? What should I do at home to control the fever?

A: Our normal temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 37 degrees Celsius. The technical definition of fever is a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or 38 degrees Celsius.

Remember that a temperature under the arm is one degree lower than a rectal temperature. A rectal temperature is the most accurate way to determine a fever in a child less than one year of age.The body develops a fever in order to fight against infection by viruses and bacteria, and sometimes is present with other diseases. Most high fevers are caused by viruses and will go away without treatment for the infection itself. Antibiotics have no effect on viral infections so most causes of fever in children require no antibiotics.

What can you do to treat my child’s fever at home?

  • Encourage your child to take more fluids, including ice pops, because fever will increase the body’s fluid needs.
  • Dress your child in loose fitting, light clothing
  • Bathing your child with lukewarm water may help bring down fever. Never use cold water or alcohol to bathe your child.  Cold water will only cool down the skin, not the body temperature.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are the two forms of medication for children that may help lower your child’s temperature.

    • Tylenol is given every 4 hours as needed
    • Ibuprofen is given every 6 hours as needed, preferably not on an empty stomach
    • For specific dosing information, click on fever
  • Fevers do not necessarily need to be treated unless your child is feeling badly and looks ill. If your child is playful and looks good, it may be best just to watch it closely. The most important thing is not the height of the fever but how your child looks.

Click on fever for discussion on when to contact your pediatrician for a fever in your child.  Also, information on the use and dosing of acetaminophen or ibuprofen is available.