Symptoms with Uncertain Cause (Child)

Based on the exam and any tests that were done today, the exact cause of your child’s symptoms is not certain. While your child's condition does not seem serious, the signs of a serious problem may take more time to appear. Therefore, it's important for you to watch for any new symptoms or worsening of your child’s condition. A repeat physical exam or additional testing at a later time may uncover a cause for your child's symptoms that is not evident today.

Home care

Your child can go back to his or her usual activities and diet when he or she feels able to do so.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider, or as advised. Contact the healthcare provider sooner if your child's symptoms don't start to improve in the next few days.

Note: If your child had any tests, such as an X-ray or ultrasound, the results will be reviewed by a specialist. You will be notified of any new findings that may affect your child's care.

When to seek medical advice

Unless your child's healthcare provider advises otherwise, call the provider right away if:

  • Your child’s current symptoms get worse.

  • New symptoms appear.

  • Your child is not acting as he or she usually acts.

  • Your child has a fever (see Fever and children, below)

Fever and children

Use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Don’t use a mercury thermometer. There are different kinds and uses of digital thermometers. They include:

  • Rectal. For children younger than 3 years, a rectal temperature is the most accurate.

  • Forehead (temporal). This works for children age 3 months and older. If a child under 3 months old has signs of illness, this can be used for a first pass. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Ear (tympanic). Ear temperatures are accurate after 6 months of age, but not before.

  • Armpit (axillary). This is the least reliable but may be used for a first pass to check a child of any age with signs of illness. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Mouth (oral). Don’t use a thermometer in your child’s mouth until he or she is at least 4 years old.

Use the rectal thermometer with care. Follow the product maker’s directions for correct use. Insert it gently. Label it and make sure it’s not used in the mouth. It may pass on germs from the stool. If you don’t feel OK using a rectal thermometer, ask the healthcare provider what type to use instead. When you talk with any healthcare provider about your child’s fever, tell him or her which type you used.

Below are guidelines to know if your young child has a fever. Your child’s healthcare provider may give you different numbers for your child. Follow your provider’s specific instructions.

Fever readings for a baby under 3 months old:

  • First, ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead: 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 99°F (37.2°C) or higher

Fever readings for a child age 3 months to 36 months (3 years):

  • Rectal, forehead, or ear: 102°F (38.9°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 101°F (38.3°C) or higher

Call the healthcare provider in these cases:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher in a child of any age

  • Fever of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher in baby younger than 3 months

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under age 2

  • Fever that lasts for 3 days in a child age 2 or older

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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