A fever can be a sign that the body is fighting an infection. A fever is when the body temperature is higher than normal, 38°C (100°F) or higher. How your child looks and acts are more important than how high the fever is.

Observe Your Child

If your child has a fever, they may:

  • look flushed or pale
  • feel hot or cool to the touch and/or sweaty
  • be fussy or groggy
  • have “goose bumps,” shivers or tremors
  • be thirsty

Take Your Child’s Temperature

The best way to take a temperature depends on your child’s age. The safest way to take your child’s temperature is with a digital thermometer in the center of their armpit. If your child is over two years of age, an ear thermometer can be used.

Toronto Public Health does NOT recommend:

  • Taking the temperature in the mouth (oral) of a child under the age of five, as your child can bite and break a glass thermometer. Also, the reading can be wrong because it is hard to keep a thermometer under your child’s tongue.
  • Using mercury thermometers. Exposure to this toxic substance can occur if the thermometer breaks.
  • Using fever strips and pacifier thermometers as they do not give accurate temperature readings.

Take your child to your health care provider if your child:

  • is under six months and has a fever (see the baby’s health care provider right away)
  • is excessively cranky, fussy, sleepy or lethargic
  • is persistently wheezing or coughing
  • is vomiting or has diarrhea
  • has a rash, stiff neck, earache, headache, sore throat or any other signs of illness that worries you
  • has a fever for more than 48 hours
  • has recently returned from travel outside of Canada

If you are unsure, and you live in Ontario, call Health Connect Ontario at 8-1-1 (TTY: 1-866-797-0007).

Caring for Your Child with a Fever

  • Contact your child’s health care provider to determine if medication is needed.
  • Offer plenty of fluids to drink.
  • If your child is breastfeeding, offer more often.
  • Remove extra blankets and clothing so heat can leave your child’s body. A light sheet may be offered for comfort.
  • Keep your child in light clothing: diapers or underwear and a light shirt.
  • Never use alcohol or cold water to sponge or bathe your child. Alcohol is a poison and can be absorbed through your child’s skin.