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The only thing that spike’s faster than a child’s fever is the parental anxiety that follows it. And—in the midst of a historic global pandemic—another thing that is elevated is our Google searches for fevers. As we head into cold and flu season, we are looking for good information on fevers like never before. It's helpful to understand that a fever is a natural response our children’s bodies have to keep us healthy and just one piece of information we can gather to know when and how to help them (and when to call our doctors).
Why we get fevers At the back of our brain sits a gland called the hypothalamus, which acts like the thermostat of our bodies. When our immune system senses a threat to our health, such as a bacteria or virus, it sends little biochemical signals, called pyrogens, to the hypothalamus. When the hypothalamus receives these messages, it tells the body to make more heat and hold onto it (voila, a fever!) because pathogens like the normal temperature of our bodies. Higher temperatures make it harder for them to survive. Kids tend to get faster and higher fevers, not because they are sicker, but because their immature immune system is more easily affected by pyrogens. It’s a pretty cool defense mechanism that we’re lucky to have.
What is considered a fever Our normal body temperature generally hovers around 98.6 degrees. All of us usually have lower temperatures in the morning that rise over the course of the day. If your child’s temperature is above 100.4 degrees, it is considered a fever.
Common causes of fever in kids
A fever is just one piece of information A fever in and of itself is not usually cause for alarm. In fact, if your child is older than three months and is behaving more or less normally—playing, eating and drinking well, acting alert and smiling at you—it’s likely their infection isn’t serious. If they are over three months and their fever is under 102 and they seem comfortable, you may not even need to treat it. And remember that in these situations of uncertainty, Amazon Care is available 24/7 to help.
On the other hand, with or without a fever, if your child is experiencing significant changes in appetite, activity level, or behavior, it could be a sign of a serious infection.
What matters is the whole picture—temperature, appetite, behavior, other symptoms—and that’s what your doctor will ask you about if you call.
When to call the doctor
Get immediate medical care if your child:
Does a fever mean my child has COVID-19? There are lots of infections that could cause a fever in your child, many of them much more likely than COVID-19. And most children who do get infected have little to no symptoms. But if your child has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or has a fever with other symptoms, your doctor can help determine whether they should be tested. The most common COVID-19 symptoms in children include fever and cough. If your child is having difficulty breathing, get medical help right away.
The bottom line is that if you are worried about fever, you are in good company, and it doesn’t necessarily mean something is really wrong. But any time you have concerns about your child’s health, we are here to help: just use the Amazon Care app to connect with a doctor, nurse practitioner, or nurse in minutes.