A fever is a temporary increase in body temperature, and a sign that you're fighting an illness or infection. The average normal temperature for a health person is 98.6 F (37 C). When it rises above that, especially in infants and toddlers, it can be serious.
Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (0:56) is in the downloads at the end of the post. Please "Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network." Read the script.
Babies who have fevers should be seen by a health care provider immediately.
"A fever in a newborn, less than a month, is always an emergency," says Dr. Tina Ardon, a Mayo Clinic family physician. "A baby less than 3 months with a fever is still pretty concerning, so we're going to want to see that child, as well."
But when talking about fevers in older kids, Dr. Ardon says a rising number on the thermometer isn't usually an emergency, at least initially.
"Parents can feel comfortable watching their children for up to three days as long as they're hydrating and otherwise acting well," says Dr. Ardon. "But I may see another child with a 101 fever who hasn't been drinking all day and hasn't used the restroom all day, and that's more concerning to me."
She says hydration is important when your child has a fever because the high temperature causes the body to lose fluids.
"When you're treating a fever, the goal is not to get your temperature down to a normal temperature. It really is just to make the patient or the child feel more comfortable," says Dr. Ardon.
She says over-the-counter medications can sometimes help, but check with your provider first.