According to Dr. Charles Scott, MD, a pediatrician with Virtua Hospital System, Mt. Holly and Voorhees, New Jersey, new parents should not be "fever phobic." A fever is a natural defense mechanism that helps the body to fight infection.
He notes that the temperature—the actual number on the thermometer—is only important to know when the child is under three months of age. "Particularly with infants under the age of two months, the child has no way of showing that he or she is sick other than by running fever," explains Dr. Scott, who is also president of American Academy of Pediatrics, New Jersey Chapter.
For children older than three months, there are other, more important indicators of illness, he says. Parents can ask themselves several questions to help evaluate the status of their child's health, including:
- How is he responding to me?
- Is he more cranky than usual?
- Does he seem to have less energy than normal?
"A child exhibiting extreme lethargy and running a low temperature is more concerning than a child with a high temperature who is cranky and acting out," Dr. Scott notes.
However, if parents are still concerned about their child's fever or behavior, they should consult their pediatrician. The doctor might suggest giving the child an over-the-counter fever reducer/pain reliever to bring down the fever and help the child feel more comfortable. (Use this acetaminophen dosage chart to see what your child needs.)