Dealing with fevers as your toddler gets older

Fevers in toddlers are one of the more common reasons for parents to call the pediatrician. As the parent of a toddler, you probably aren’t surprised to hear this – fevers can be scary! They’re common in toddlers, and they often happen for no clear reason, which is a large part of why parents get nervous when their child’s temperature rises. 

It can be reassuring to understand the specifics of fevers – why toddlers get them so often, what is serious, and what is okay – so that you know when to make a phone call, and when to wait it out.

What is a fever?

We tend to think of fevers as illnesses, but a fever is actually a symptom, not the illness itself. A fever is a sign that the body is working to produce antibodies or cells that can fend off sickness. Toddlers get fevers so often because their bodies are working to build up the necessary tools to fight whatever bacteria or virus comes their way.

What are the signs that a fever might be a cause for concern?

Here are some signs to watch for that will warrant a call to the pediatrician:
  • If a child recently received immunizations and has a temperature higher than 102 F (38.9 C)
  • If a child has a fever for more than 5 days
  • If the fever goes above 104 F (40 C)
  • If the toddler seems to be urinating less liquid than usual – this could be a sign of dehydration
  • If they appear to be drowsy or is acting ‘different,’ for example, not playing or eating
  • If the child is vomiting, has diarrhea, a strong headache, no sweating, a sore neck, or any other symptoms that are highly uncommon in fevers

What should you do if your child has a fever, but there is no current cause for concern?  

If your child has a fever that shows these signs, you can take care of them by giving them plenty of liquids, dressing them in lighter clothes, letting them sleep as much as they want, taking their temperature periodically, and keeping an eye out for any change in symptoms.

If any of these symptoms arises during a toddler’s fever, it’s best to call the doctor to determine their cause and the best method of treatment for the child. It’s important to keep an eye out for these symptoms so as to treat them immediately.

The comfort factor 

Even in fever situations that don’t necessarily call for a doctor’s visit, however, getting in contact with the pediatrician or other healthcare provider can be reassuring. Whether for the toddler’s comfort, or for their parents’, it’s important to be able to call the doctor whenever you feel you need to.
  • The toddler’s comfort: Many healthcare professionals agree that a toddler’s comfort is priority when it comes to fevers and treatment, so it’s a good idea to speak to the doctor if at any point you feel that your child is significantly uncomfortable. The doctor or other healthcare provider can advise you on how to make your child more comfortable during the fever.
  • The parent’s comfort: If you or your partner are concerned for any reason, or if you want to talk to your healthcare provider about anything at all, don’t worry about giving them a ring about something, even if it’s non-serious! There’s a reason so many parents call for advice about fevers, as they can be confusing and worrying for new parents. It’s always good to get guidance and advice when exploring unfamiliar territory, even if all you need is a professional confirmation that everything is okay.

  • “Fever in children.” Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins University. Web.
  • Tracy Lim. “Kids fevers: When to worry, when to relax.” Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, 1995-2016. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Fever: First aid.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, April 15 2015. Web.
  • Janice E. Sullivan, Henry C. Farrar. “Fever and Antipyretic Use in Children.” Pediatrics. Volume 127, Issue 3. Web. March 2011.

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