Temperature Gauge

What you need to know about fever in infants.


In most cases, your baby's fever is nothing for you to get hot and bothered about, according to a new American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report published in Pediatrics. "Fever is not an illness," explains Janice E. Sullivan, M.D., co-author of the report and a professor of pediatrics at University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky. In fact, fever can be beneficial because it triggers your baby's body to produce more infection-fighting white blood cells.

But if your baby 3 months old or younger has a fever, call your pediatrician immediately (see chart below). "Younger infants can't fight off infection as well as older babies and need to be evaluated by a pediatrician as soon as possible," says Gail Harrison, M.D., a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.

For older babies, it's safe to take a wait- and-see approach. If your 3- to 12-month-old has a fever but is eating, drinking and behaving pretty much as she usually does, you don't need to give her acetaminophen or ibuprofen to bring the fever down. (Never give her aspirin.) However, if your baby is a little fussy, these meds can help her feel better. But use caution. "Parents tend to under- or overdose when using fever meds," says Sullivan. Check with your pediatrician for the correct dosage for your baby. Call the doctor if your baby of any age has a fever (even a low one) accompanied by a skin rash, lethargy, trouble breathing, infrequent urination or vomiting or if she isn't eating or behaving normally.