You are here

Everything You Need to Know About Fever

Even though I've seen my three kids through everything from the flu to the chicken pox, I almost lost it the night my toddler spiked a fever of 104°F. Why was she burning up? Should I rush her to the emergency room or wait for her doctor to return my call? Fortunately, he phoned back within 30 minutes, and all it took to reduce Rosalie's fever was some infant Tylenol and a lukewarm bath. Before long she fully recovered from what proved to be a harmless virus.

There's no doubt about it: Fevers are scary. Indeed, fevers account for nearly 30 percent of visits to the pediatrician. But in most cases a high temperature won't harm your child unless it hits 105°F  --which is very rare.

"Fever is not an illness but a sign that the immune system is fighting off an infection," says Lynn Smitherman, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Wayne State University in Detroit. "When viruses or bacteria attack the body, white blood cells come to the rescue by producing interleukin, a hormone that raises body temperature. In effect, this rise in body heat helps kill the germs that are making your child sick." There's also some evidence that a fever helps fight illness by lowering blood levels of iron, which actually may be needed by germs in order for them to survive.