Fevers scare many parents. When a child’s temperatures rises, it can induce panic and helplessness. But when parents recognize that fevers are oftentimes not incredibly harmful to children, that recognition can reduce panic and overreliance on fever-reducing medication.
If a child is healthy, a fever does not necessarily indicate anything serious. A fever is a rise in temperature initiated by the hypothalamus in the brain, which acts as the body’s internal thermostat. The average body temperature is 98.6 F (37 C), but if body temperature is measured consistently throughout the day, this temperature will fluctuate. In fact, body temperature is often lower in the morning and higher in the middle of the day.
In many cases, the hypothalamus raises body temperature as the result of an infection or illness, according to the Nemours Foundation for Children’s Health. It is believed that making the body less hospitable to viruses and bacteria helps reduce their propensity to grow and multiply.
A fever is often a good indicator that a person is sick, which can sometimes be difficult to determine if there are no apparent symptoms. This can help parents and doctors discover what is triggering the fever.
For parents of toddlers and older children, a fever of 103 F or less is generally nothing to run to the doctor about. There is no inherent harm in letting the fever run its course, and it can actually prove beneficial in fighting the viral or bacterial illness that is causing the fever in the first place.
If your child is a newborn, a fever of 101 F or higher can be considered a medical emergency and should be evaluated by a doctor right away. Youngsters ages 7 weeks to 3 months should be brought to a doctor immediately if they have a fever of 101 or higher.