When is fever reducing medication needed in children? Here’s what experts say

U of M poll found some parents use fever meds unnecessarily

When a child feels sick, parents want to make them feel better, but a new poll from the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital found some parents may be giving their children fever-reducing medication unnecessarily.

In the poll, one-third of parents say they give their child fever-reducing medication for a temperature below 100.4 degrees, but according to University of Michigan pediatrician and poll co-leader Dr. Susan Woolford, that’s not considered a fever.

“(Anything around) 100.4 degrees and above is the definition of a fever,” said Dr. Susan Woolford. “So, a temperature less than that is not a fever and doesn’t require medication to reduce the temperature. If we give medication for lower temperatures, we run into the risk of giving too much medication when it’s not needed. And as we know, all medications can have side effects.”

Nearly 90% of parents in the poll did know a low-grade fever can help a child’s body fight off infections.

“The only reason to give a fever-reducing medication is to help them to stay comfortable,” Woolford said. “However, if they are comfortable, then there is no reason to give medication to reduce the fever. And one can just monitor them.”

Eighty-four percent of parents correctly remember to re-take the temperature before giving another dose, and 65% are careful to record the time of each dose, but 26% give another dose to prevent the fever from returning, which is not recommended.

Still, some fevers should prompt a call to the pediatrician.

“If your child is less than three months of age, and they have a fever, you should definitely call,” Woolford said. “If they’re older than that, then there’s a little bit more leeway. If they have a high temperature 104 and above, you should definitely call. If your child is less than two, and they have a fever for more than 24 hours, you should call or if they’re older than that, and they have a fever for 48 hours, you should also call.”

If your child has a fever, Dr. Woolford also recommends dressing them in light clothing, making sure the room is cool, and encouraging them to drink fluids or eat a popsicle.

About the Author:

Pamela Osborne is thrilled to be back home at the station she grew up watching! You can watch her on Local 4 News Sundays and weeknights. Pamela joined the WDIV News Team in February 2022, after working at stations in Ohio and Pennsylvania.