Treating high temperature (fever) in babies and children
Your child’s first fever can be a very alarming experience. There is little worse than seeing your child unwell, but childhood fevers are actually very common and are usually nothing to worry about.
Why does my child have a high temperature (fever)?
As children build their immunity, their bodies are learning how to fight off many different types of nasty bugs and infections. A high temperature is a natural defence mechanism that the body uses to make it difficult for viruses and infections to survive. Common childhood causes of fever include:
- Colds and flu
- Ear infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Whooping cough
Infections are not the only causes of childhood fevers. A baby’s temperature often also rises during teething and after vaccination. The most common cause of a fever is a simple viral infection such as a cough or cold.
How can I tell if my child has a fever?
Your child may have a fever if they feel hotter than usual when you touch their forehead, back or stomach, feel sweaty or have flushed cheeks. These are common signs of a fever but the only way to know for sure is to check their temperature with a thermometer.
What should my baby or child’s temperature be?
A normal body temperature for babies and children under the age of 5 is anything below 38C. Any temperature at or above 38C is classified as a fever. Even with a high temperature, your child’s behaviour may be a good indicator of how sick he or she really is. Some children may seem very ill at a lower temperature, whilst others are happily playing and laughing at temperatures above this.
How often should I check my child’s temperature?
When your little one has a fever, it is understandable that you would want to check their temperature as often as possible to make sure it doesn’t get too high. There are 5 common ways to take a child’s temperature and each is useful at different times. Many parents feel stressed out at night when their child has a fever because they are afraid that their child may overheat while they sleep. A great way to ease this stress is to use a smart thermometer that monitors your child’s temperature the whole night and wakes you up immediately if it gets too
How can I help my feverish child feel better?
Many parents try to avoid giving their child medication if they don’t have to. There are several non-medical ways that you can use to try and lower your child’s fever before needing to use a fever-relief medication like ibuprofen or paracetamol.
Just remember that reducing your child’s fever does not fix the main illness or problem that is causing the fever. The high temperature itself may help your child’s body fight off the infection. However, lowering their fever may help your child feel better.
Some non-medical ways to help care for your feverish child include:
● Plenty of fluids and chilled foods, like popsicles or yogurt, and look out for signs of dehydration
● Avoid dressing them up in too many clothes
● Only offer them food if they seem to want it; do not force them to eat.
When should I call the doctor?
Fevers are usually not a cause for concern and can often be treated at home. Depending on the underlying cause, a fever will usually go away on its own within a few days.
● is under 3 months old and has a temperature of 38C or above
● is between 3-6 months old and has a temperature of 39C or above
● has a high temperature that is not coming down with ibuprofen or paracetamol
● has a fever lasting more than 5 days
● seems dehydrated
● has frequent fevers combined with night sweats, fatigue, and/or swollen lymph nodes
● has a fit (seizure) for the first time
● has a high-pitched or unusual sounding cry
● has blotchy skin, a rash that doesn’t fade when you roll a glass over it, is breathing very rapidly, or is showing other signs of illness
● seems very ill, is unresponsive or is getting worse
Remember, you know your child best so if you are worried about your child being seriously ill, trust your instincts and call the doctor . If you cannot reach your doctor, you can call NHS 111 for further advice about treating your child. If your child is unresponsive or very ill, take them to an urgent care centre or the emergency department.
*Disclaimer: in addition to monitoring your child’s temperature, it is important that you also continuously monitor your
child’s overall well-being.