Fever Symptoms in Childhood Illnesses

Fever, a temperature that is at or above 100.4 F is one of the more common symptoms of childhood illnesses. 

It is also one of the symptoms that tend to worry parents the most. In fact, there is even a term to describe how parents sometimes overreact to a child's fever: fever phobia.

But some level of concern is warranted because fevers can sometimes signal a serious problem that needs immediate medical attention. So if your child ever gets a fever of 100.4 Fahrenheit or higher, you may want to call your pediatrician to figure out what next steps you should take.

Mother feeling son's forehead
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Fever Symptoms

Most children feel sick when they have fevers, especially when they have fevers that spike really high. This is often due to some of the secondary fever symptoms that they may have, such as:

  • chills
  • shivering
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • muscle aches
  • hallucinations
  • sweating

Fevers in younger children may also trigger febrile seizures. (Febrile seizures are seizures that are brought on, specifically, by fevers. They are different from epileptic seizures.) Although scary for parents, febrile seizures are usually not serious. They tend to occur in young children, during a viral illness in which a fever spikes all of a sudden.

Treating Fever Symptoms

Treatment of a fever can include using an over-the-counter fever reducer, including products that contain acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil). Always talk to your child's pediatrician before giving your little one any type of medication. Ask which type of drug might help the most and what the appropriate dosage is for your kid's age. 

Keep in mind: If your child has an infection that's causing a fever, using a fever reducer will not help them get better any faster, but it will probably make your kid feel better.

Give your child a lot of fluids—such as glasses of water or drinks that contain electrolytes—when he or she has a fever so that he or she does not get dehydrated.

Other Fever Symptoms

In addition to secondary fever symptoms, which typically go away as you are able to reduce your child's fever, other symptoms that accompany your child's fever may help you to figure out what is causing the fever.

These symptoms (and the potential reasons for them) include:

  • an earache = an ear infection
  • a sore throat = strep throat, mono, or other viral infections
  • a runny nose = a cold or sinus infection
  • a dry cough, runny nose, muscle aches, and high fever = flu symptoms
  • a cough and trouble breathing = pneumonia
  • generalized rash after the fever breaks = roseola
  • seal bark cough = croup
  • a sore throat and a sandpaper rash = scarlet fever
  • dysuria (pain with urination) = urinary tract infection

Treatment of these symptoms will depend on the underlying cause, like antibiotics for strep throat (which is caused by a bacterial infection), and time and rest for a cold.

Of course, kids don't always have classic pediatric symptoms. For example, they can sometimes have earaches without having ear infections when they have colds, sore throats, or even when they are teething.

Plus, infections aren't the only causes of fever. Children with prolonged fever may have more mysterious symptoms, such as skin rashes, diarrhea, weight loss, or night sweats. And the symptoms might be caused by conditions like juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, or even reactions to medications.

17 Sources
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By Vincent Iannelli, MD
 Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.