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 Telehealth Ontario (toll-free) 1-866-797-0000.
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.