Young girl getting temperature taken Fever in children is very, very common – every parent knows. 

But now, the pandemic has added a layer of concern for many parents, since fever is one of the symptoms of COVID-19.

Pediatricians want you to know this: Nothing has changed about how you should manage a fever.

As always, for babies younger than 2 months or children of any age with known underlying conditions that make serious infection more likely, head over to the Emergency Department if they have a fever (temperature of 100.4 or higher). Otherwise, your first step should be this: Take a deep breath.

Calm and comfort

Stay calm. You don’t need to call the doctor right away.

Instead, just as you would have before the pandemic, make it a priority to help your child feel as comfortable as possible. Encourage them to rest and drink.

Fever is your friend

Don’t think of a fever as bad. In fact, a fever is the body’s way of fighting an infection from germs like viruses or bacteria. Fever is a sign of sickness, not a disease unto itself.

Fever is a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (or 38 degrees Celsius) or higher. Children will experience numerous fevers in their first few years.

Look at a fever as something that’s helping your child – not hurting.

When should I call the doctor?

This is worth mentioning again: For babies younger than 2 months or children of any age with underlying conditions that make serious infection more likely, go to the Emergency Department right away.

For everyone else: Use your judgement as a parent, just as you would have before the pandemic.

You don’t have to keep taking your child’s temperature multiple times a day once you have already established that they have a fever. Other symptoms and how your child looks and feels are more important than what the temperature is.

Call the doctor right away if your child has shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, is crying inconsolably or has severe pain, or has a change in mental state (for example, seems confused or unusually “out of it”). You should also call if you suspect your child is dehydrated. Developing a new rash, with fever, is another sign to call the doctor.

Always trust your gut. You know your child. If you feel something isn’t right, call the doctor.

Don’t delay care

If you become concerned enough to call the doctor, don’t delay care because of worries about bringing your child to a doctor’s office during the pandemic.

A telehealth visit might be enough. Or, if you do have to come to the doctor’s office, feel comfortable: All our locations are very clean and safe.

But what if it’s COVID?

In this time of a pandemic, when a child develops a fever, every parent will wonder, “Is it COVID?”

Think of it this way: Having COVID in the equation doesn’t change your first steps when your child has a fever.

Instead of worrying too much about COVID, put your energy into taking good care of your sick child, while keeping a watchful eye on other symptoms.

And use your judgement about when to call your CHOP provider’s office. The nurses and doctors there will help you figure out what to do…just like they would have before the pandemic!

Watch an animated video about fever.

Naline Lai, MD, FAAP, is medical director at CHOP Primary Care, Central Bucks, and Julie Kardos, MD, FAAP, is medical director at CHOP Primary Care, Newtown.

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