Published on in Health Tip of the Week
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 can be 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 100.4F, or 38C, 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 COVID-19 pandemic, make it a priority to help your child feel as comfortable as possible. Encourage them to rest and drink.
Don’t be afraid of fever
When a child’s body revs up to fight germs, their body temperature often rises.
A bump in body temperature to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or higher is considered a fever. Children will experience numerous fevers in their first few years.
Fever itself is just a sign of illness and is not in itself the worry. The concern is the underlying disease - whether it is meningitis, COVID-19, a urinary tract infection or a common cold. Keep in mind allergies and teething do not cause fever.
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.
If an otherwise healthy baby between the ages of 2 and 3 months gets a fever, parents should consult immediately with their pediatrician.
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.
What about COVID?
Even though many diseases cause fever, parents will wonder if their child has COVID-19.
Although most fevers are not caused by COVID-19, now that COVID-19 testing is readily available, it is easy to check your child for COVID-19. You can schedule COVID-19 testing through CHOP here.
You can also check CHOP’s COVID-19 website for useful information.
To learn more about how to manage your child’s symptoms, you can use our symptom checker.
Think of it this way: Having COVID-19 in the equation doesn’t change your first steps when your child has a fever. Put your energy into taking good care of your sick child, while keeping a watchful eye on other symptoms.