Fevers are one of the most common symptoms of childhood illness. They occur as a natural part of the body's immune response and they can also occur as a part of an infection when a pathogen hijacks the body's internal temperature control system. In the first case, your child's fever is a natural and beneficial part of the healing process, but in the second, it is a dangerous sign of infection. For most parents, the problem with fevers arises simply because they do not know whether they are responding to the first case or the second.
American parents are scolded for having fever phobia, but no one wants to take a chance that their child's fever might be a sign of serious infection either. Fortunately, there are ways to navigate that line using a little common sense and a little perspective can help you avoid fever phobia.
When your child develops a fever your initial impulse might be to panic. Don't give in to that response, instead, try to take a look at the larger picture. The degree of your child's fever is largely meaningless when it comes to determining how sick he or she is. Instead consider the child's other symptoms. A child with a fever that is largely untroubled otherwise is probably not very sick at all.
A child that had a fever and is slightly irritable and uncomfortable probably bears watching, but is in no real danger. A child that displays more serious symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea along with their fever is much more likely to be ill. In all of these cases you should contact a doctor if you have any concerns, but in the first two your doctor is unlikely to be worried.
Though the degree of a child's fever is mostly meaningless, there are some general guidelines that you need to watch out for. The real danger point is in fevers higher than 107 degrees F, which can cause the break down of the body's proteins. Most doctors advise that you use these guidelines to determine when a fever is turning dangerous. You should contact your doctor if the fever:
* Is 100.4 degrees F or higher in an infant under two to three months
* Is 101 degrees F or higher in an infant from three to six months old
* Is 103 degrees F or higher in an infant six to twelve months old
* Is 103 degrees F or higher in a child over twelve months old and does not improve with fever reducers and home remedies.
Keep a careful watch on your child until the fever breaks, no matter what degree of fever he or she has. Children's illnesses can progress rapidly and unexpectedly. Do not worry, however, unless the temperature reaches the danger zone out lined above. Instead, try to remember that childhood fevers are natural and choose a course of treatment that you have deemed appropriate to the situation.