Toddler fever can be very worrying but it usually is not a sign of a serious illness. In fact, fever is often a good thing because it typically signals that the body is fighting off an infection. In addition, toddlers tend to tolerate fever quite well and are usually completely healthy within a few days. The symptoms that may accompany toddler fever are usually a much greater concern than the fever itself.
If your child feels warmer to the touch than normally, he or she most likely has a fever but you need a thermometer to confirm your suspicions. There are several types of thermometers but it is recommendable to use a digital thermometer because electronic ear thermometers tend to be inaccurate, while the glass mercury thermometers pose a risk of mercury exposure and take several minutes to get the results. Do not panic if the thermometer confirms your suspicions because a body temperature up to 102 F (38.9 C) does not necessarily mean that your toddler is seriously ill. You probably do not need to worry if your child is responsive, shows interest in play, has a normal skin color, and eats and drinks normally although it is not unusual for toddlers with a fever eating slightly less.
Toddler fever is always a sign of an underlying condition, most often a viral or bacterial infection. It is impossible to determine the cause of fever on the basis of elevated body temperature alone and for that reason it is crucial to pay attention to other symptoms such as cough, runny nose, diarrhea, abdominal pain, behavioral changes, vomiting, ear pain, headache, skin rashes, etc. which will help your doctor make a diagnosis.
You are recommended to wait for 24 hours before you start lowering your child’s temperature if it does not exceed 102 F and if your child does not have any other symptoms. However, do not give your toddler any medications to lower a fever without consulting with your doctor first. He or she will probably recommend you to give your child lukewarm (not cold!) sponge baths, or acetaminophen or ibuprofen which will help you keep your toddler’s temperature under 102 F.
Make sure that you carefully follow your doctor’s instructions and never give your child an aspirin because it has been associated with Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal condition. Encourage your toddler to drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration, keep the room temperature pleasantly warm, dress him or her in a lightweight clothing and make sure that he or she gets plenty of rest.
Call your doctor immediately if your toddler has a fever higher than 102 F, is not able to make an eye contact, is not responding to your voice, has breathing difficulty or a skin rash, vomits repeatedly, has severe diarrhea, refuses to eat and drink, has a stiff neck or any other worrying symptoms. You are also highly recommended to take your child to your doctor if fever persists more than two days.
Some toddlers experience the so-called febrile seizures (fever-induced seizures) which can be very frightening but are usually harmless. These seizures that are characterized by convulsions and brief loss of consciousness occur when the body temperature rapidly rises or falls. Keep your child lying on the bed or floor during a seizure and wait for it to pass. However, call 911 if the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes or if your toddler has repeated seizures.