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How can I reduce my child's fever without using medicine?

Jennifer Shu pediatrician

To avoid fever-reducing medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen – or when you just don't have any handy – you can try a non-medical approach to lowering your child's fever.

Reducing your child's fever doesn't help to cure the underlying illness or problem. (And a fever can actually help your child's body fight off an infection.) But if a temperature climbs high enough to make your child really uncomfortable or dehydrated, lowering the fever can help.

Here are some methods to try:

  • Place a cool, damp washcloth on your child's forehead while she rests.

  • Give your child a lukewarm tub bath or a sponge bath. As the water evaporates from her skin, it will cool her and bring her temperature down. Don't use cold water. It can make her shiver and cause her body temperature to rise.

  • Offer your child plenty of fluids and chilled foods, such as ice pops and yogurt, to help cool the body from the inside out and keep her hydrated.

  • Use a fan. Again, you don't want your child to be chilled. Keep the fan at a low setting and have it circulate the air around her rather than blow directly on her.

  • Remove layers of clothing so your child can lose heat more easily through her skin. Dress her in one light layer. If she's shivering, give her a light blanket until she's warm again.

  • Stay indoors in a cool place. Or, if you're outside, stay in the shade.

Call the doctor right away if your child is younger than 3 months old and has a fever. For a baby 3 to 5 months old, call the doctor if her temperature reaches 101 degrees or higher. Once she's 6 months old, call if her fever reaches 102 degrees or more.

No matter your child's age, call the doctor if she has a fever along with other serious symptoms, like difficulty breathing or purple spots on her skin. These can be a sign of a serious bacterial infection.

To help your child with cold and flu symptoms other than fever, check out our list of 11 safe home remedies for soothing a sick child.

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