The Mistakes You’re Making When Treating Your Child’s Fever


thermometerMoms, we're doing it wrong! According to a new survey -- let's bring the dads into this conversation, too -- we parents are treating our kids' fevers the wrong way. There's a big disconnect between how we think we should be treating a fever and what pediatricians actually recommend.

The makers of Advil® sponsored a survey that talked with 1,026 parents of children ages 12 years and younger and over 250 pediatricians nationwide. They found out that half of us (52 percent) feel anxious, fearful, and helpless when our kids get a fever. And almost all (94 percent) pediatricians think we need to be better educated about how to handle those panic-inducing fevers. Wouldn't it be great if you knew EXACTLY what to do about your child's next fever? Read on to see if you're treating your kids' fevers right.

  • Half of us (54 percent) wake up our kids in the middle of the night to give them more meds. Pediatricians recommend letting your child keep sleeping, though it's smart to keep checking up on them.
  • More than a third of us (36 percent) give our kids a dosage according to their age -- but we should be going by their weight.
  • Half of us (52 percent) send our kids back to school or daycare less than 24 hours after they've recovered from their fever. Pediatricians recommend waiting a full 24 hours.
  • Dads feel more confident in handling kids' fevers (41 percent vs. 21 percent) -- but then, they're also more likely to dose based on age than on weight and they're also more likely to send kids back to school less than 24 hours after a fever.
  • A quarter of us (25 percent) are giving our kids the adult meds -- and we're just sort of estimating on the dosage. Yikes!

Ugh, some of this sounds familiar. You know how it is. Isn't it always in the middle of the night when your child wakes up with a fever? And you fumble to the medicine cabinet and make your best guess -- oops, out of children's meds again. And forget calling your pediatrician at 2:00 a.m.! The next day the fever is gone and you're faced with a tough choice: Play it safe and take a day off of work to stay home with your child, or send her back to daycare because she seems fine? 

Here's what Advil and pediatrician Dr. Alanna Levine recommend.

  • Stay Cool: Remember that most fevers are in fact indicators that the body is fighting an underlying illness.
  • Be Prepared: Start the season by talking to a pediatrician and gaining their insights on proper fever management. Also, check the medicine cabinet to ensure that all medications have not expired or been recalled.
  • Watch for Serious Signs: Generally, it’s time to call a pediatrician if your child is less than 3 months old and has a fever of 100 degrees or higher; the fever is over 103 degrees; if your child has a fever and looks and acts very sick; or if the fever lasts for more than a few days.
  • Long Lasting Relief: When choosing a fever medication, be sure to consider how long the medication will last. 

So today might be a good day to check those medicine cabinets, right? You can find more information about treating fevers at But because every kid is different, it's probably also a good idea to talk with your pediatrician during the next check-up to see what they recommend. Okay, so you're not going to panic now the next time your child has a fever, right? Me too!

How do you compare with the survey? Are you confident about how you treat your kids' fevers?


Image via Joe Seggiola/Flickr

child care, safety, sick days, toddler health


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Mommy... MommyOfOne2710

I never did any of that... I thought everyone knew you always dose by weight, not age? And if they're sleeping, why would you wake them up? A fever isn't a reason to panic!

AliNo... AliNoelle

Pretty confident actually. I have childrens meds on hand, washcloths to cool foreheads and a "sick kit" for the older boyos when they aren't feeling well. The babe hasn't had a fever or been sick since he was born. As for men being able to handle fevers more calmly? HA! Not in this house. My DH gets all twitchy if the babe doesn't poop today as many times as yesterday.

Senia... Seniahmom

I've never heard of anyone waking a child to give them meds unless it was an antibiotic with very specific instructions and even then that's extremely rare. Sleep is a great "medicine."

And often people jump to quick to fever reducers to quickly. I know someone who gives their kids meds if they get a temp of 99! Seriously? How about rest and fluids first? A cool cloth? A fever is a sign the body is fighting something don't be so quick to get rid of it.

And when the pediatrician gave us a dosage based on my son's weight I still gave him a bit less. I always take less than the recommended dosage for OTC meds and it works great (I always take the children's dosage instead of the adults'). If the children's dosage works well on an adult it makes me wonder if recommended dosages are too high in general. So I always give less.

Melis... Melissa042807

I learned a lot about fevers working at a school and being kind of the go-to for band-aids and temperature-taking when the nurse wasn't around. I cannot tell you how many times I'd get kids wandering up to my desk a little before lunchtime saying "I don't feel so good..." and I'd take their temp and sure enough, they had a fever. So I called the parents, who said "I don't understand! I gave them Tylenol this morning!" *FACEPALM* 

One of the best ways to prevent sickness is to prevent the spread of sickness. Tylenol or whatever is not a cure for a fever. The fever is not gone until it breaks and stays away, like this article said, for 24 hours. Inconvenient? Yes. But disease is inconvenient. So do your part to stop the spread. 

Kiwis... Kiwismommy19

We're good here. Yes, I do give my 6 year old adult meds, but that's because the dose of kid's is the same as a single adult pill which she prefers.

It's crazy to wake a kid up for unneeded meds. We would wake her up for her midnight dose of heart meds but never for fever reducers especially if it wasn't over 101 at a minimum.

yayhe... yayheadstart

I've just been dealing with this. Mostly i give my child ibuprofen and it's really for pain and discomfort, not to bring the temp down, unless it is over 102° or so. I am scared of acetaminophen, though because of the risks to the liver and it doesn't last as long. Also my kids are small for their ages, so we have to dose by weight instead of age to avoid overdose.

madam... madamekatekate

Well, I'm doing it 100% correctly then. Go me? Lol.

Jespren Jespren

I thing I disagree w/, it can sometimes be important to wake to redose (or slip it in their mouth while the sleep). If u r keeping a 104 fever in check w/ meds, then they kind of need those meds @ dosing time. My children, unfortunately, inheirited my prediliction 4 very high fevers. (My record is 106.8) but due to lots of experience w/ fevers, I don't panic when they come around, even when that number starts creeping past 104. (Doc says no ER need unless it's above 106 and not responding to meds)

Mom22... Mom22Gurls82

106???  My ped says anything over 104 could be potentially dangerous!  I don't think I'd let it go to 106 since 107 can cause brain damage (I know this because we have a relative who suffered pretty major damage after a high fever).  But the meds are only a last resort for us.  A cool bath, cool rag, and lots of fluids are usually sufficient during the day.  We give Motrin at nightime if its needed, but always according to weight.  I think peds do a pretty good job educating the public now...probably due to the panicky parents who rush kids to ER's or over-booked doctor's offices at the slightest hint of a fever!


I don't think I did any of those things.

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