November 15th, 2010
09:20 AM ET

Why do kids always get fevers on Sunday nights?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Monday, it's Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician.

Question asked by Jo of Kennesaw, Georgia

Why do my kids always seem to get sick on Sunday nights? They love school; it's not that they're trying to stay home. But they get random fevers - as high as 102 - out of the blue, and it seems to happen a lot on Sunday nights. Have you seen this in other patients?

Expert answer:

Thanks for your question. While I don't know of any medical studies showing that children get sick more commonly on Sundays, it certainly does seem that kids come down with illnesses toward the end of a weekend or holiday break, just in time for school or even practically any time the doctor's office is closed.

Who knows whether the symptoms are just being noticed once all the activities wind down or whether a child is simply fatigued enough that their immune system becomes a little weak. If anyone has research explaining whether there is a true pattern of more sicknesses on Sundays and a medical reason for it, I would certainly welcome the information.

It is true, however, that fevers are more likely to happen later in the day. That's because the body's hormone levels (such as cortisol) vary during the day and cause a person's temperature to be the highest between about 4 and 6 p.m. and lowest around 6 a.m.

The range in normal temperatures can fluctuate as much as 1 degree Fahrenheit over the course of a day. A child's body temperature also tends to run a little higher than an adult's, making an afternoon or evening fever much more noticeable. To make matters worse, kids get sick more often than adults (catching as many as eight to 12 colds per year compared with two or three) and stay sicker longer (about two weeks instead of one).

All of these facts together may make it seem more likely that kids are getting a fever on a certain day of the week even though it may just be a coincidence.

Some children do have repeated fevers that are caused by various conditions such as disorders of the immune system, cyclic neutropenia or PFAPA (periodic fever with aphthous stomatitis, pharyngitis and adenitis). These conditions are very rare compared with typical childhood viral illnesses that cause fevers.

However, if you are concerned your children's fevers are overly frequent or are accompanied by other symptoms, please be sure to consult your pediatrician, who may recommend a physical examination, lab tests or other studies.

soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Oda155

    hmmm… I’m going to go out on a limb here and say one of two things… they want the attention, or some know that the bully at school is waiting to start a whole new week of kicking their little butts… but I could be wrong.

    November 15, 2010 at 10:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • EB

      Right, because you can totally fake a fever...

      November 15, 2010 at 11:09 | Report abuse |
    • Davis

      Glad I'm not your kid. "Son yoo better stop make believin that 102 fever or yer gonna get the see the wrong side of this belt!"

      November 16, 2010 at 01:04 | Report abuse |
  2. Fred

    With my kids I've noticed they are around a different set of little germ factories on the weekend then they are during the week. Things like exposure to their cousins, Chuck E Cheese, McDonald's play land . . . Things they don't get during the school week.

    November 15, 2010 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. drabby

    @Oda155 – Did you read the article? It was clearly stated that the kids love school!

    November 15, 2010 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. MRF

    Children are exposed over the weekend to an entirely different set of children (and their inherent sets of germs) from their work day/school day set of illnesses. If your child goes to church with you on the weekend or to visit family with cousins their age you are exposing them to a totally different subset of germs and illnesses. I know my outgoing oldest child who went to Sunday School regularly from 2 years old on was sick a whole lot more often than my younger child who was extremely shy. My younger child was so upset at being left with a strange teacher or babysitter at church that we just stopped going for a couple of years and there was an enormous difference in how many times we went to the doctor.

    November 15, 2010 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Guy Smith

    It's common to get sick on Sunday because people are exposed all weekend to illness at the mall, football game, concert, movies, etc. Anywhere there are crowds. DUH.

    November 15, 2010 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. shibbygirl

    Change in diet- a lot more junk food on weekend, change in bedtime- up a lot later on weekends, & much more exposure to germs, movies, shopping, friends houses, parks... I'm 28 & I still get sick on sunday nights!

    November 15, 2010 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Mok

    Is she? Rats, i thought i got out in time 😛

    November 15, 2010 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Donna

    Talk about off-topic. She just looks fat to me.

    November 15, 2010 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
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      October 12, 2012 at 07:12 | Report abuse |
  9. Donna

    When I was in school, I always got sick at the start of vacations. I think I was willing myself to be okay for all my tests and whatever and once all that was over and my guard was down, I got sick.

    November 15, 2010 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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  10. Bernard Shaw

    What nonsense!
    Is this CNN or TMZ???

    What happened to factual reporting/journalism?

    no facts here...lets all go to TMZ...Health.com

    November 15, 2010 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Sandman

    I have a sure fire sleeping system...No medications or supplements... I read a really really really BORING book.......

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    November 15, 2010 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. grace

    From personal experience, it always takes me over 2-3 days from initial exposure to get sick, but sometimes even a week. I've noticed that people usually get sick on Thursdays or Fridays and rarely on Sundays. Even my recent cold stared on a Friday, but symptoms got worse as it progressed. And by the way, the cold developed exacly 1 week after exposure. I know because I have the exact symptoms as the person who I got it from. I don't know how quickly children get sick after exposure and maybe the timing is closer together than in adults, but to say that "germ factories on the weekend are different than during the week" and children get sick from those weekend germs on Sundays, is over simplification. It takes at least few days to develop a cold and not only 1 or 2. If a child is ill on Sunday night, it probably means that one of his school friends brought it to school in the previous week.

    November 15, 2010 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. barnmother

    Remember the is an incubation period on "catching" something. It isn't and instant. So think about what these kids did 7-10 days ago. Perhaps a classmate carried some "germ" in from the weekend before/

    November 15, 2010 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Sandi K

    The immune system produces anti-germ cells mostly during sleep. If a youngster or teen is up late Fri nite and or Sat nite the immune system is stressed and not as efficient–a virus that has been lurking beneath the radar, no symptoms, for a time may find an immune system lapse and be able to propagate more freely. So then Sunday evening–the virus symptoms start manifesting. I have seen this many times with my kids.

    November 15, 2010 at 18:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dr. Ruth

      The immune system actually works harder under stress; it is when we relax and let our guard down, that the immune system often relaxes, too. People frequently get sick (with something they were exposed to days to a week before) when they start a vacation or come to the end of a stressful period. This does not mean to relax less, but relax more. Don't go all-or-nothing. Ensure adequate rest time during the week. And do lots of things that bolster an immune system that is tired – sleep well, eat well, laugh, and have lots of positive social interactions, etc.

      November 16, 2010 at 15:37 | Report abuse |
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    November 15, 2010 at 20:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Emmaleah

    I find the same thing. Children need REST on the weekend and most families don't slow down at all. Also, a lot of kids don't get to spend the weekend in their 'home' house, adding to the stress. I used to teach preschool, and I was a tutor for special needs kids, and the kids who were healthiest were the ones whose parents limited TV time, kept a steady routine. and encouraged outdoor physical activity as a family. You could pick those kids out of a crowd–not because they were smarter or nicer, but because they handled stress better and were rarely absent.

    November 15, 2010 at 21:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. gts 128

    What is wrong with kids getting sick they will be ok after couple days , if the eat, drink, sleep well they will still get sick so let them have fun and give them tylenol for kids

    November 16, 2010 at 07:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. dxp2718

    My daughter always seems to get sick on weekends and holidays, when we have to wait the longest to bring her to the doctor. On the one hand, it means she doesn't miss school too often, but on the other, it means excessive worrying for her parents, who need to debate incurring the cost of taking her to the ER to get checked out since the pediatrician's office isn't open. My guess is she picks stuff up at school during the week and then incubates it for just long enough to fall ill for the weekend.

    November 16, 2010 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Familydoc

    Cyclic Neutropenia is a rare but potential cause of recurring fever in children.

    November 16, 2010 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
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