Fever in a child is scary for parents. It doesn't matter how high the temperature is. If it's low, you're worried it's going to rise. If it's high, you're worried about why it's so high and what you should do about it.
But parents should take a deep breath, pediatricians advised Monday. Many times, parents overreact to a child's fever, they said. A fever is one of the most common reasons that parents take their kids to the doctor, but visits may not be necessary. Nor are over-the-counter fever-reducing medications needed in all cases.
The report is a reminder that a fever plays a beneficial role in fighting infection. While feverish children younger than 3 months should be checked by a doctor -- as should children ages 4 months to 6 years with fevers above 101 degrees and children older than 6 with fevers higher than 103 -- most fevers don't hurt the child. Parents should use acetaminophen or ibuprofen (administered with a pharmacy-issued measuring device) only if the child acts sick -- he or she is achy, lethargic or chilling. For example, a kid with a fever of 99.5 who is acting fine does not need medication.
The report, published online in the journal Pediatrics, stems in part from concerns that adults misuse medications to treat pain and fever in children, said Dr. Janice E. Sullivan, the lead author of the article and a professor of pediatric critical care and clinical pharmacology at the University of Louisville.