There’s much debate over the issue of when you should try to bring down a fever. Even medical professionals disagree on the issue. The Mayo Clinic for instance, suggests not using medications to reduce fevers in anyone over the age of three that has a fever less than 102°F (about 38.8°C). Fever does benefit the body in fighting infection, but there may be benefit in some circumstances to reducing fever when it is causing significant discomfort.
Most doctors recommend you don’t treat a fever under the recommended amounts unless a child or adult feels particularly uncomfortable. Fevers can cause flushing, irritability, and an increased sense of achiness. If a child has a minor fever and seems unaffected, you don’t necessarily need to run for the medicine cabinet for acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
On the other hand, body temperature tends to increase as a day progresses. A 101°F (about 38.3°C) temperature taken rectally, could progress to a much higher temperature by day’s end. If your child starts out the morning with a fever, chances are it will go up, and some parents feel that it should be brought down before it has a chance to climb higher. Many argue this method promotes greater comfort for the child. If you want to wait, periodically check the child's temperature throughout the day.
When you are in a situation where a person over three has a fever of 102°F (about 38.8°C) or greater, and it’s the middle of the night or you can’t get to a doctor, there are a couple of ways to bring down a fever. First off, you can give an appropriate dosage of acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and you can actually alternate both medicines since they are entirely different in nature. Don’t give aspirin to children under the age of twelve, since it puts them at risk for a very dangerous illness called Reye’s syndrome. Do not give or take more medication than is recommended by the manufacturer.
Another thing that can help reduce a fever is to offer a light sponge bath. Something to avoid you have a fever is getting chilly. You can take a bath or give a fevered person a full bath if the bathroom is fairly warm and free of drafts. Don’t attempt this if it is likely you will cause chills. Chills tend to increase rather than decrease temperature.
Make sure that you don’t circumvent your efforts to bring down a fever by overdressing or using too many covers. If you or your child has a fever and is chilly, an extra blanket or a warm shirt may help, but don’t try to “sweat” the fever out of someone. When body temperature is rising it makes sense to use light blankets and wear light clothing so as not to increase a fever.
If you are caring for a newborn, note that a rectal temperature of greater than 100°F (about 37.8°C) is indication to contact your doctor immediately. Do give appropriate medication per your doctor’s recommendations, and don’t hesitate to call your newborn’s doctor if you note this high of a temperature in a child less that three to four months of age. Follow a doctor’s guidance on how best to bring down a fever for a child of this age.