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04:14 PM

7 fever myths every parent should know

The Doc Smitty dispels myths about fever

There is not a topic in pediatric medicine that has more myths surrounding it than fevers.

I hear statements like these:

1. “She must’ve been about 103 because she felt really hot.”

Touching a child to determine if you should check their temperature is valid, but skin temperature can vary based on what the child has been doing. If they feel hot after playing hard, being outside or waking up, give them a few minutes to cool off because you get too concerned.

2. “He had a 99 which is a fever for her because he usually runs around 97.”

Everyone’s temperature varies throughout the day, but we have to have a real cut-off for fever. You’ll see definitions vary but that cut off for me is 100.5 in children less than 3 months and 101.5 in children older than 3 months. (Remember that any child under 3 months that has a fever warrants a call in to your doctor right away.)

3. “He had a low-grade fever of 100.”

See above…it’s either fever or it’s not.

4. “I was worried because I know that fevers above 104 can cause brain damage.”

Temperatures that the body is generated because a child is sick are internally driven. The fever will stop rising at some point. Children are at risk for complications if their temperature rises because they are in a hot car or other external factors, but not because they are sick.”

5. “I knew something must be seriously wrong because his fever was so high.”

I think of fever like an on/off switch. A child has fever or they don’t. If they have a fever I need to look for the source, but the height of the fever does not indicate that something more dangerous is going on.

6. “I didn’t give him any medicine, because I wanted you to see how high the fever is.”

Nooooo ... If your child has fever and is uncomfortable, don’t leave them miserable until you come in to see me. I trust you if you say your child has a fever. If you’re worried I won’t trust you, take a picture of the thermometer.

7. “He was doing fine, then he had a fever of 102 and when I woke him up to give him some medicine, I couldn’t get him back to sleep.”

Another nooooooo ... never wake a sleeping baby to treat their fever. Never interrupt a playing baby to treat their fever. Treat fever based on the child’s comfort or to help them drink if they won’t. Otherwise, it’s fine to let the child have a fever.

I know it’s hard when your child is running fever. You feel worried and helpless.

Hopefully, dispelling some of these myths will help you treat your child with confidence.

* Read Dr. Smith's previous blog: "My child has a fever."

About the author

Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . View more from The Doc Smitty at his Facebook page.He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.

Comments 1 - 2 (2)
Thank you for your message. It will be posted after approval.
Goldie Lazar
How long after fever is gone is it ok to let child go to playground, swim, etc.
Justin Smith, M.D.
Thank you for your question Goldie. I think a good, general rule of thumb is 24 hours of being fever free.