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What causes a fever?

Fever is a symptom, not a disease. It is the body's normal response to infections. Fever helps fight infections by turning on the body's immune system. The usual fevers of 100 to 104°F, or 37.8 to 40°C are not harmful. Most are caused by viral illnesses; some are caused by bacterial illnesses.

How long will it last?

Most fevers with viral illnesses range from 101°F to 104°F (38.3° to 40°C) and last for 2 to 3 days. In general, the height of the fever doesn't relate to the seriousness of the illness. How sick your child feels or acts is what counts.

What is a fever?

A fever means the body temperature is above normal. Your child has a fever if:

    The temperature is over 100.4° F (38° C).

Fever helps fight infections. Most fevers are not harmful. They may last 2-5 days.

Remember that the fever is helping your body fight the infection. Take medicine only if your fever is over 102°F (39°C) and preferably only if you are child is uncomfortable. You give take either acetaminophen or ibuprofen. See dosage information.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Use medicine only if the child needs it. Remember that fever helps your child fight infection. Use medicine only if the fever is over 102° F (39° C) and your child is uncomfortable.
  • You can give acetaminophen (Tylenol) to children older than 2 months every 4 hours as needed.
  • You may want to give your child ibuprofen instead. Ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin) works 2 hours longer than acetaminophen. Give the right dose for your child's weight, every 6 to 8 hours, as needed.
  • Do not give your child aspirin.
  • Bathe your child if the fever does not go down or the temperature stays over 104° F (40° C) 30 minutes after your child has taken acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Have your child drink a lot of lukewarm or cold fluids.
  • Have your child wear as little clothing as possible. Do not bundle up your child. It will make the fever go higher.

    For fevers of 100 to 102° F (37.8 to 38.9° C), cold fluids and minimal clothing may be all your child needs. Your child shouldn't need acetaminophen.



  • Your child is less than 3 months old.
  • Your child's fever is over 104.5° F (40.6° C).
  • Your child looks or acts very sick.

During regular hours if:

  • Your child is 3 to 6 months old
  • Your child has had a fever more than 24 hours and you don't know what is causing it.
  • Your child has had a fever for more than 4 days.
  • The fever went away for over 24 hours and then came back.
  • You have other concerns or questions.

Fever information from the AAP

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

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