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The Truth About Fever Phobia

Mar 1, 2024Library

One topic I come across almost every day in my practice is the fear of fevers. It seems to scare even the most calm and laid-back parent.  Some studies show that many parents believe a fever of 104 or greater can neurologically harm their children, but is this really true?

A fever is actually a product of your child’s immune system doing its job.  Fever stresses the pathogen invading your child, makes the white blood cells work better, and essentially works as an additional defense against viruses and bacteria that don’t grow well at higher temperatures.  Decreasing fever by using Tylenol or Motrin has not been shown to improve outcomes and can, in fact, be harmful because these medications block your child’s fever response to these pathogens.  Fever does more harm to the pathogen than to the child’s healthy cells, so blocking it is of little use.

Because of fever phobia, children are at an increased risk of being overdosed on Tylenol or Motrin, which can have long-term health effects. We use these medications mainly to help keep your febrile child a little more comfortable while his or her body fights off the infection. There is no “fever number” at which to give these medicines. A child with a 100.7 fever may be feeling miserable and may need a dose of one of these medications to make her feel better, while another child with a temperature of 103 may be relatively comfortable and be fine continuing to monitor without the medications. 

So when should you actually be worried about fever? If your child is hard to wake up, confused, limping, has had a seizure, has bloody diarrhea or persistent vomiting, or the fever has lasted longer than 5 days, a trip to your child’s health care provider is indicated. And if your child is just feeling miserable with the temperature, a dose of Tylenol or Motrin may be helpful to make her feel more comfortable, though it won’t help her illness to go away any quicker. Remember, the ultimate goal of fever-reducer medications is to make the child more comfortable, not to make the illness go away or to make the temperature “normal.”

If you have concerns about your child’s fever, please consult your child’s healthcare provider.

For more information, contact Delta Health Pediatrics at 970.546.4000 or visit Delta Health Pediatrics has walk-in appointments available Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. as well as same-day appointments available Monday through Friday. Please call the clinic to schedule an appointment.

More tips, articles and videos from Dr. Lovette can also be found online by joining the Healthy Kids Western Slope Facebook Group at

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