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
- Unusual breathing or cold symptoms
- Ear pain
- Poor appetite
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.
1American Academy of Pediatrics
2Shevchuk YM. (2010). Chapter 9: Fever. Patient Self-Care. Canadian Pharmacist Association. Retrieved 4 October 2015, from <http://www.pharmacists.ca/cpha-ca/assets/file/store/PSC-Fever.pdf>
3(2013).Fever and Temperature Taking. Caring for Kids. Canadian Pediatric Society.
4National Institutes of Health