You've probably experienced waking in the middle of the night to find
your child flushed, hot, and sweaty. Your little one's forehead feels
warm. You immediately suspect a fever, but are unsure of what to do
next. Should you get out the thermometer? Call the doctor?
In healthy kids, fevers usually don't indicate anything serious.
Although it can be frightening when your child's temperature rises,
fever itself causes no harm and can actually be a good thing - it's
often the body's way of fighting infections. And not all fevers need to
be treated. High fever, however, can make a child uncomfortable and
worsen problems such as dehydration.
Here's more about fevers, how to measure and treat them, and when to call your doctor.
Fever occurs when the body's internal "thermostat" raises the body
temperature above its normal level. This thermostat is found in the part
of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus knows what
temperature your body should be (usually around 98.6°F/37°C) and will
send messages to your body to keep it that way.
Most people's body temperatures even change a little bit during the
course of the day: It's usually a little lower in the morning and a
little higher in the evening and can fluctuate as kids run around, play,
Sometimes, though, the hypothalamus will "reset" the body to a higher
temperature in response to an infection, illness, or some other cause.
Why? Researchers believe turning up the heat is the body's way of
fighting the germs that cause infections and making the body a less
comfortable place for them.
Read more and take the Fever Quiz.