Fever is a common symptom that most babies and children will experience at some point in their young lives. As parents, you probably have already wondered why your child might have a fever and you might be aware of the treatments available.

But did you know, that there are different ways to respond to your child’s fever based on how old they are? Did you also know that age is a factor when deciding where to take a temperature reading? Once again, age also plays a role on the type of medication to give if they do have a fever. Knowing these components, as well as others, are what will make managing your child’s fever much easier and less anxiety inducing for you.

By reading this blog, you will not only know why your child has a fever, you will also know how to respond, what kind of treatments they will need and when to stay at home versus when to go to the Emergency Room (ER).  


A fever occurs when the body’s temperature increases above normal readings. This happens in response to an infection or in some cases after being vaccinated. Most infections are mild and will usually pass after a couple of days. Others are more severe and will require medical attention.


You should take your child’s temperature if they appear ill, feel hot, are irritable or are more tired than usual.  


According to the, Institut National de Santé Publique de Québec (INSPQ), use a plastic, digital thermometer without glass or mercury to take your child’s temperature.

Refer to the list below to find out which technique is the most accurate considering their age group.

Birth – 5 years: Rectal or axillary (armpit). Rectal is the preferred method for children less than 2 years old, as it is the most accurate. You can use the axilla for children above 2 years old to get a quick reading but it is considered less accurate than a rectal reading.

5 years & older: Under the tongue. At this age your child can hold a thermometer under their tongue long enough to get an accurate reading.

Special considerations:

In the ear: Not recommended because it is less accurate than all other methods.

Temporal (forehead): Newest technology that exists in taking temperature readings. Studies are starting to show that temporal readings can be accurate for babies as young as 3 months. Because this is a new technology, healthcare organizations have not yet adopted temporal thermometers for routine use.

How to take a rectal reading:

  • Make sure the thermometer is clean by using cool water with soap, then dry it
  • Cover the tip of the thermometer with vaseline
  • Place your baby on the back with the knees bent
  • Insert the thermometer about 2.5 cm (1 inch) into the rectum
  • Leave the thermometer in place until it beeps

How to take an axillary reading:

  • Clean the thermometer in the same way that you would if you were taking a rectal reading
  • Place the tip of thermometer under the armpit against the skin
  • Make sure that the child’s arm is held tightly against the body
  • Keep the thermometer in place until it beeps


According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), your baby or child has a fever if their rectal temperature is 38.1(100.6) or higher. Axillary temperature higher than 37.3 (99.1)


So your child has a fever. Now what? Your response will vary based on your child’s age, if they have received a vaccine and if they appear to be sick. I want to make a point that your child’s overall appearance is more representative of their health condition than the actual reading on the thermometer. If your child looks really ill, then do not focus on the temperature reading. In this case, you will always bring your child to the hospital.

Less than 6 months old and has not been vaccinated. Whether or not they appear ill, you should always contact your doctor or local healthcare facility. They will tell you how to respond.

6 months and older and has not been vaccinated. You can treat your child at home so long as they appear healthy. Make sure they are drinking enough fluids, to maintain hydration and keep an eye on their temperature. Cool baths are not recommended as they can be stressful for a child with a fever. If their fever continues for more than 72 hours (three days) then you should contact your doctor.

Any child who has been vaccinated. Follow the recommendations given by the vaccinator. If you are unsure about your child’s overall status contact your doctor or local healthcare facility.

Medication use. A child with a fever, who does not appear ill does not necessarily need medication. Medication usage is more useful for promoting comfort to your little one, than to actually bring down the fever. If you do decide to give medication make sure to follow the recommendations below:

  • Do not use Aspirin
  • First preferred method: Acetaminophen (Most popular brand name: Tylenol)
    • Do not give Acetaminophen to a baby less than 3 months old, until you have spoken to a healthcare professional first
  • Second preferred method: Ibuprofen (Most popular brand name: Advil)
    • Do not give Ibuprofen to a baby less than 6 months old
  • Dosage: Follow the dosage instructions on the medication label or contact your local pharmacist/healthcare provider if you are unsure


If your child has a fever and any of the following symptoms; contact your doctor immediately or take them to the ER.

  • Less than 3 months
  • Had or is having a seizure
  • Vomiting
  • Cries constantly and cannot be soothed
  • Hard to wake; very lethargic
  • Pale
  • Difficulty breathing or breathing rapidly
  • Has any other symptoms that are you worried about

Knowing how to manage your child’s fever will help reduce any anxieties you might feel as a parent. Focus more on their overall appearance and how they’re feeling, than the reading on the thermometer. If you are ever unsure on how to respond, contact your local healthcare provider. Hope you enjoyed this week’s blog post. Share any tips or comment below on any personal experiences.