What Is A Fever?

A fever is not an illness unto itself. So what is it?

It is a symptom of sickness and can be a positive sign that the body is fighting infection. However, a fever can make your child uncomfortable1,2 and you may want to lower the fever so he or she can feel better.

A fever is generally caused by:

  • Viral infections such as the flu and sometimes a cold, or
  • Bacterial infections such as strep throat or an ear infection

Other causes include:

  • Immunizations, which may cause a child to have a low-grade fever for one or two days
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Extreme sunburn
  • Teething, which may slightly increase a child’s temperature - not typically higher than 37.7°C (100°F)

In some cases, a fever may be an indication of something more serious such as chickenpox or a kidney infection.

How do you recognize a fever?

While every child is different, a child who has a fever will typically show signs of being sick. Take your child’s temperature if you see one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Excessive sweating and/or a flushed face or skin
  • Dry, hot skin that feels warm to the touch
  • Sleepiness3
  • Unusual breathing or cold symptoms
  • Ear pain
  • Vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Crankiness3

The illness is probably not serious if your child:

  • Has a mild fever
  • Is still interested in playing
  • Is eating and drinking well
  • Is alert and smiling at you
  • Has a normal skin colour
  • Looks well when the temperature comes down1,4

Regardless of your child's symptoms, you should always call the doctor if you are concerned about the health of your child.