It is common and normal for the human body’s temperature to shift throughout the day. For example, body temperature is often a bit lower in the morning, higher in the evening, and increases and decreases with daily activities. However, the hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that regulates body temperature, sometimes resets itself to a higher temperature due to illness or infection. At times, these shifts require parents to take action and call a pediatrician.
The paragraphs that follow contain information about temperature fluctuations that are normal in infants and toddlers, verses ones that require a doctor’s attention.
Although many parents grew up being told that normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, studies show that few children actually maintain this number consistently. Different parts of each child’s body have different temperatures as well, so parents may get a different thermometer reading depending on where the temperature is taken. A fever is often defined as an oral temperature of greater than 99.5 degrees or a rectal temperature of over 100.4 degrees.
Most parents are more concerned with high temperatures than low temperatures; however, low temperatures could indicate a problem with young children as well. As long as a child’s body temperature is above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, there is likely no major cause of concern. A low temperature could be caused by nutrient deficiencies, neurological issues, or a response to a cold environment.
One condition that can affect children is an intermittent fever, in which a child has an elevated temperature for a few hours before it returns to normal and then goes back up again. Intermittent fevers are often accompanied by an increased heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.
Overall, body temperature is largely determined by age. For example, an infant’s temperature is highly influenced by the environmental temperature due to low metabolism and body weight. Infants and toddlers who have anxiety or who are highly active may have higher body temperatures than their calmer and more relaxed peers.
Occasionally, children experience fevers with no other symptoms. If this type of fever is mild and not causing the child any discomfort, it may simply go away on its own. However, physicians recommend that parents seek treatment for young children who exhibit any of these symptoms along with fever:
Babies under three months of age should be taken to a doctor if their rectal temperature reaches 100.4 degrees because very young babies’ fevers can escalate quickly. Parents should call a doctor if their child between three and six months has a temperature of 102 degrees. And for children older than six months, a doctor is recommended if a temperature of 102 degrees last more than two days or reaches 103 degrees. Also, children with temperatures that dip below 95 degrees could suffer from organ damage and require immediate medical attention.
In this parental guide to fever relief, PediaCare provides resources for parents seeking answers for their child's special circumstances. Medicine made for kids, helps getting better easier!