Originally posted here by Dr. Samira Armin, pediatrician Texas Children’s Hospital.

“Doctor, he had a temperature of 104F overnight.”

“No matter what we did, her fever would not come down. She was burning up.”

“I’ve never seen my child so sick and we didn’t know what to do.”

One of life’s biggest challenges is knowing what to do when your child is sick. Concerned parents often ask their pediatrician, “At what temperature do I take my child to the emergency room?” The answer is: there really is no number. A higher fever doesn’t necessarily mean a sicker child. Sometimes, a lower body temperature can affect a child more than a high one. Remember, a fever is the body’s natural response to fighting germs. It enhances the body’s ability to fight infection by creating an environment in which germs do not thrive as easily. The fever is there for a reason; a high fever is sometimes an indication that the body is fighting a viral illness. Viral infections do not require antibiotics.

In the heat of moment, it can be difficult to determine whether or not your child is suffering from a minor health problem or a true emergency. Any time your child has a fever, the first step is to assess their demeanor. If they are acting normally and playfully, it may not be necessary to intervene. If they are acting sickly or are lethargic, complain of pain, or are generally fussy, give them the appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen before reassessing and determining your next steps. Remember to keep them well hydrated by offering small sips of clear liquids, such as Pedialyte.

Oftentimes, offering supportive measures at home can buy enough time until your pediatrician’s office is open again. Texas Children’s Pediatrics app also offers the answer to many common parenting questions with a comprehensive symptoms checker and access to MyChart, which allows you to make appointments for the following day online. During after-hours, remember minor to moderate health conditions can be seen at your local Texas Children’s Urgent Care. Texas Children’s Urgent Care clinics are open weekday evenings and weekends to meet your after-hour health care needs. Here are some conditions that can be managed in the urgent care setting:

  • Ear aches and pink eye
  • Fever and illness in those older than 2 months old
  • Simple lacerations
  • Minor falls and injuries
  • Croup and asthma
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Skin infections and urinary tract infections

It is helpful to know that going to urgent care is similar to your physician’s office, with a few added services. Meanwhile, life-threatening emergencies should be handled in an emergency center. These conditions include:

  • Respiratory distress and severe asthma attacks
  • Severe trauma and injury
  • Prolonged seizures
  • Snake bites
  • Sudden changes in mental status
  • Bleeding that will not stop

In the busy cold and flu season, wait times in emergency centers can be overwhelming for those with minor ailments. Texas Children’s is committed to offering you access to the appropriate level of pediatric care during extended hours throughout the city of Houston.