Fever itself is usually not dangerous. Fever is a sign that the body is fighting an infection. It’s a normal response when there’s a germ invading the body. When the immune system detects a bacteria or virus there’s an increase in white blood cells which sends a message to the brain to raise the body’s temperature to help fight the infection.
Just like the check engine light on your dashboard is only a warning so is fever a warning that something in the body needs attention. Fevers that are caused by viruses do not respond to antibiotic treatment. Some common viral causes of fever are roseola, coxsackievirus and the common cold. Bacterial causes of fever which respond well to antibiotics are certain ear infections, pneumonia and sinus infections.
What is considered having fever? Usually under 100.4 degrees farenheit is normal. Between 100.5 F and 103 F is a moderate fever and anything over 103 F is considered a high fever. Babies usually have a higher temperature than older children and everyone has a little bit higher of a reading between the late afternoon and early evening.
The rectal method of measuring temperature is considered the most accurate and is recommended for babies younger than 3 months of age. For these infants it’s important to know the exact number so as to determine the proper course of action. After 3 months, an underarm or pacifier thermometer is fine.
When a newborn baby has a rectal temperature of 100.4 F or higher call you doctor immediately. The reason that it’s so urgent is because older children can fight off most infections but infants are more vulnerable and a serious infection can spread rapidly and cause life threatening complications. Between 3 to 6 months call your doctor if your child has a fever of 101 degrees. For babies 6 months and older you probably should call the doctor if the fever exceeds 103 degrees.
The degree of the fever does not represent how serious the illness is. Many harmless viruses can cause really high fever while serious bacteria like meningitis will only cause a moderate fever. The way your baby is behaving is more of an indicator as to how significant it is. Be sure to tell your doctor if your child has little or no appetite, vomiting or diarrhea, seems irritable and has a rigid neck.
You must remember to treat the baby, not the fever. Fevers do not always have to be lowered because sometimes they help fight the infection. If your baby is acting like she normally does, let the fever ride unless the fever is causing discomfort.