A fever is a common sign of illness, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, fevers seem to play a key role in fighting infections. So should you treat a fever or let the fever run its course? Here's help making the call.

AgeTemperatureWhat to do
Infants
0-3 months 100.4 F (38 C) or higher taken rectally Call the doctor, even if your child doesn't have any other signs or symptoms.
3-6 months Up to 102 F (38.9 C) taken rectally Encourage your child to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Medication isn't needed. Call the doctor if your child seems unusually irritable, lethargic or uncomfortable.
6-24 months Above 102 F (38.9 C) taken rectally Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol, others). If your child is age 6 months or older, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) is OK, too. Read the label carefully for proper dosage. Don't give aspirin to anyone age 18 years or younger. Call the doctor if the fever doesn't respond to the medication or lasts longer than one day.
Children
2-17 years Up to 102 F (38.9 C) taken rectally for children age 3 and younger, or taken orally for children older than 3 Encourage your child to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Medication isn't needed. Call the doctor if your child seems unusually irritable or lethargic or complains of significant discomfort.
2-17 years Above 102 F (38.9 C) taken rectally for children age 3 and younger, or taken orally for children older than 3 Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others). Read the label carefully for proper dosage, and be careful not to give your child more than one medication containing acetaminophen, such as some cough and cold medicines. Don't give aspirin to anyone age 18 years or younger. Call the doctor if the fever doesn't respond to the medication or lasts longer than three days.
Adults
18 and up Up to 102 F (38.9 C) taken orally Rest and drink plenty of fluids. Medication isn't needed. Call the doctor if the fever is accompanied by a severe headache, stiff neck, shortness of breath, or other unusual signs or symptoms.
18 and up Above 102 F (38.9 C) taken orally If you're uncomfortable, take acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or aspirin. Read the label carefully for proper dosage, and be careful not to take more than one medication containing acetaminophen, such as some cough and cold medicines. Call the doctor if the fever doesn't respond to the medication, is consistently 103 F (39.4 C) or higher, or lasts longer than three days.
Jan. 29, 2013