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By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

Fever is not dangerous; if the child’s general condition is good. A child with fever should be undressed and have plenty of fluid. You should call the doctor immediately, if the child is drowsy or has trouble breathing.

Fever is a sign of illness but does not say anything about how serious the illness is.

A child that plays, watches TV or listens to the radio is very rarely serious ill. If the child can be distracted by reading aloud to it or playing with it, it is also a good sign regardless the temperature. On the other hand, the child can be seriously ill if it does not play, wants to drink or cannot be distracted even though the temperature has raised slightly.

If a child has high fever but otherwise seems alert, there is no immediate danger. You say the child’s general condition is good when it is as described above; can play, drink and be distracted even though the child is not as alert as it is when it is healthy. During a child’s illness, the evaluation of the general condition is of great importance.

You should measure the temperature when the child has rested for 20 minutes in a cool room. The temperature can rise up to 38oC during play and the child does not have to be ill. Staying in a warm room increases the temperature. You talk about fever when the temperature is over 38oC.

Fever often means that the child has an infection with a virus, e.g. cold or flu. Small children have higher fever than adults do and 39-40oC when you have a flu is not uncommon. Normally the child’s temperature rises during the day and is highest in the evening. A child with a cold will typically have 38oC in the morning rising to 39oC in the evening without any sign of deterioration. Some children with fever can get cramps (fever cramps). Especially children between the age of 6 months and 5 years get fever cramps. Fever cramps starts with you not being able to contact the child. At the same time the child, becomes stiff in the whole body. After a few seconds, the legs and arms bend and stretch in very fast twitches. The attack normally lasts less than 5 minutes. The child then awakens and will act normally apart from the fever. It is not harmful to the child, even though fever cramps look dramatic.

Click here to read about how you evaluate your child


Depends on the cause of the fever.

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The child must stay at home until the temperature is normal and the child can participate in the usual activities without special care.


A child with fever is often whining, will not drink, and have a restless sleep. If the child is not affected, you can treat with medication in order to decrease the fever. When the fever drops, the child will often drink a bit more. Antipyretics at bedtime gives a calmer sleep. Paracetamol is antipyretic and can be bought at the pharmacy without prescription. Children under the age of 2 years should only be treated with antipyretics after consulting a doctor. A

By giving the child a special kind of medicine, you can stop the fever cramps (diazepam). The medicine is given into the rectum and works in a matter of minutes. Talk with your doctor about this.

What can you do?

The child should be lightly dressed and stay in a cool room, in order to get the temperature down. The child should have lots to drink, since it loses fluid during a fever. You can keep an eye on whether the child lacks fluid. If the child is urination stops, it is a sign of loss of fluid. The child does not have to stay in bed if it prefers being up and playing.

You can read more about a diet for children with fever here.

Contact the doctor tomorrow

If the child has a fever and will not drink. If the child is less than 2 years old and the temperature is over 39oC. If a child less than 6 months old gets a fever it should be examined by the doctor.

Contact the doctor immediately

If the child is lethargic with reduced general condition (lays still in bed, will not listen to a story or play). If the child has a fever and respiratory problems. If the temperature is more than 40,5oC. If the child is less than 4 months old and have a fever. If the child has fever cramps.