A temperature reading isn’t the only indication of whether a fever is serious.
Behavior is another factor: A high fever that doesn’t stop your baby from playing and feeding normally may not be cause for alarm.
Keep in mind that everyone’s temperature rises in the late afternoon and early evening and falls between midnight and early morning. This natural cycle of our internal thermostat explains why doctors get most of their phone calls about fever in the late afternoon and early evening.
When to call the doctor
You’re the best judge of whether your baby is really ill – so do call if you’re worried, no matter what his temperature is. Ask your baby’s doctor for more specific advice, but generally:
- If your baby is under 3 months old and has a temperature of 100.4 degrees F (38 degrees C) or higher, call the doctor immediately. A baby this young needs to be checked for serious infection or disease.
- If your baby is 3 months old or older, the most important thing is how he looks and acts. If he appears well and is taking fluids, there’s no need to call the doctor unless the fever persists for more than 24 hours or is very high. Ask your doctor for additional guidance: For example, the doctor may suggest calling right away if your baby’s fever reaches 104 degrees, regardless of symptoms.
- The AAP suggests calling the doctor if a baby is between 3 months and 6 months old and has a fever of 101 degrees F (38.3 degrees C) or higher, or is older than 6 months and has a temperature of 103 degrees F (39.4 degrees C) or higher – and has symptoms such as a loss of appetite, cough, signs of an earache, unusual fussiness or sleepiness, or vomiting or diarrhea.