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Dangerous Temperatures for Toddlers

by Sara Ipatenco, studioD

If your toddler is running a fever, you don't need to go into instant panic mode. Yes, a fever usually indicates that your kiddo is fighting something off, but running a temperature isn't always a bad thing. In most cases, it's just the body's way of getting rid of an infection. In rare instances, a fever can spike to temperatures that pose a danger to your little one, though. You need to know what's normal and what's not when it comes to your child's temperature. You should also keep your pediatrician on speed-dial in case you have any questions and for your own peace of mind.


Your child's temperature fluctuates during the day -- and can get slightly higher when he's playing or running around like a maniac. A true fever is caused by an infection or illness -- and most fevers are harmless and go away on their own. Your child has a true fever if a rectal or ear thermometer reads 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, or if an oral thermometer reads 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you take your child's temperature under his arm, a reading of 99 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is considered a fever. Fevers that reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit can cause discomfort to a child -- and scare his mom -- but they're usually harmless, according to the Seattle Children's Hospital. If your child's temperature reaches 106 degrees Fahrenheit, it's essential to bring it down as soon as possible -- and a call to your pediatrician is in order. A temperature of 108 degrees Fahrenheit or higher requires emergency medical attention because it can cause brain damage if it isn't treated right away.


While an infection is most often the cause of a fever, other things can cause one as well. Heatstroke or a severe sunburn can cause a high temperature -- and you need to treat both immediately either by going right to your pediatrician or the emergency room. If your toddler gets trapped in a hot car, his temperature can spike as high as 108 degrees Fahrenheit -- and he'll require emergency medical attention. Overdressing your toddler can cause his temperature to spike, too. If the temperature outside fluctuates during the day, dress your child in layers to prevent him from getting too hot. Some toddlers develop a high fever after receiving immunizations, but it's not common. Poisoning can also cause a high temperature, which is something to keep in mind, as poisoning requires emergency care. Certain autoimmune disorders and other conditions can cause a fever as well, although they aren't usually dangerously high fevers.

Taking Your Child's Temperature

You can use a digital rectal thermometer or an electronic ear thermometer to take your toddler's temperature. If you use a rectal thermometer, put a bit of lubricating gel on the end before slipping it in. Don't worry, as this will probably make you far more uncomfortable than it makes your child. Whatever type of thermometer you use, wait until it beeps to be sure you're getting an accurate reading. Write the temperature down with the time and the date, which will help your pediatrician doctor make a diagnosis.


When your toddler is running a fever, she needs to rest, as being active can actually cause a fever to get higher. You should offer her cool juice or water to drink, which hydrates her -- and can help lower a high temperature. You should also give your tot a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen, according to the dosing charts on the medication label. If your toddler has a fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher that doesn't improve within two hours after you give her fever medication, you should call her pediatrician.


No matter how high or low your child's temperature is, call her pediatrician if she also has diarrhea, vomiting, refuses to eat or drink or has another complaint such as a sore throat. If your toddler has a fever and develops a rash, won't stop crying, is lethargic, has a stiff neck, complains of a headache or is having trouble breathing, head to the emergency room right away.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

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