A recent article in the LA Times answers this very question. The article talks about “fever phobia”; a term used to describe the fear parents have surrounding the mysterious world of fevers. Many parents and caregivers fear that fevers are dangerous, and that a high fever may cause long-term physical damage.

Studies have shown that fevers are significantly misunderstood. “One study found that the temperature that parents and caregivers considered to be a fever ranged from 97 to 105 degrees. Another study found that 25% of adults would give a child a fever-reducing medication for a temperature below 100”.

So what is a fever? A fever is an oral temperature above 99.5 or a rectal temperature above 100.4.

Do fevers have a purpose? Yes. Fevers are an immune stimulant. They are one of the ways your body attempts to fight and invading organism, such as a bacteria or virus. Fevers increase white blood cell and antibody production in the body, they decrease the ability of viruses and bacteria to produce, and they may shorten the duration of an illness.

So what is the optimal temperature for fighting infectious disease? A fever around 102-103 degrees is optimal to help the body do all of the things listed above

Bottom line: As long as you and your child are comfortable with the fever, and it is in the optimal range, then it is beneficial. If this is not the case, then see your doctor. Children under the age of 3 months with a fever should always see a doctor

According to the LA Times article Fever Phobia there is little danger that a high fever will cause brain damage or any other permanent problems. It can lead to seizures, but febrile seizures don’t cause lasting harm”.