Fever is one of those things that can cause fear in a parent, especially a high fever. So, when is fever no big deal and when is it time to go to see your nurse practitioner, PA, or pediatrician? The answer depends the age of your child and if they have any chronic health conditions. Officially fever is a rectal temperature over 100.4 ° F.
If your child is 12 weeks or under and has a rectal temperature100.4 ° F then your medical provider should be consulted. Make an appointment to be seen that day or talk on the phone with your provider. If you cannot do either of these things because of a weekend or holiday, go to the emergency room. The medical provider should do a “work-up” to determine the cause of the fever. Usually this will happen in the hospital or emergency room. Do not give any medications, including Tylenol. Babies this age can get very sick very quickly so in this age range, take any fever very seriously.
After 12 weeks fever with a known cause is not in and of itself a problem. If a fever starts and within 24 hours you see other symptoms, like runny nose, cough, vomiting, or diarrhea then you can guess that the baby has a virus(http://www.npmom.com/2012/10/well-baby-has-his-first-cold.html). If the fever is 102° or less and goes down with Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen) if the baby is over 6 months old that is a good sign. Also, if the baby eats and acts like himself after the fever has gone down that is also a good sign. Talk your medical provider if the fever will not go away with Tylenol or Motrin, if your baby will not eat or drink, or if the baby is not acting like himself. Go with your gut feeling. You know your baby best. If you feel like there is something that needs medical attention, trust yourself.
After you child can talk he will be able to give you more information about his symptoms. He will be able to say if his ears or throat hurt, or if it hurts when he urinates. This will help you to know if your child is more likely to have a viral or bacterial infection. Ear pain indicates a possible ear infection. Sore throat could be a virus or strep throat. Pain with urination could be a bladder infection.
For all ages you should check with your medical provider for fever with no other symptoms. You should also see your provider if fever lasts more than 72 hours, or if it goes away for a day or more and then returns. That means you will have to let the medication wear off and wait to see if fever returns before giving Tylenol or Motrin again.