When babies have a fever – especially when it's a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher – it can be scary and uncomfortable for parents. Find out when to call the doctor and get guidelines on what you should and shouldn't do to bring the fever down. Plus: Before you panic, find out whether a high fever is harmful for your baby.
When taking a baby’s temperature, people can use a rectal thermometer for the most accurate results. A child's body temperature will rise under different conditions. A rise in body temperature is not the same as a fever.
Fever in a child depends on the method of taking the temperature:
above 100.4°F using a rectal thermometer
above 100°F using an oral thermometer (not accurate in infants)
above 99°F using an armpit thermometer
By itself, fever does not necessarily signal a serious illness. If the baby’s behavior is normal, they are likely to be OK. However, if a baby under 3 months of age has a fever higher than 100.4°F when taken rectally, a caregiver should call a doctor.
The severity of a fever does not always correlate with how sick the child is.
Babies’ body temperatures can rise for many reasons other than illness, including extended crying, sitting in the hot sun, or spending time playing. Their temperature may also rise a little when they are teething. None of these things causes a fever.
The normal temperature for babies depends on their age:
for infants aged 0–2 years, normal ranges are 97.9–100.4°F when taken rectally
for newborns, the average body temperature is 99.5°F
The normal body temperature ranges differ for adults, children, and babies.
A fever or high temperature might come on slowly and rise over a few days, or it might rise very quickly. It might also rise and fall throughout the day. These things usually don’t have anything to do with the illness that causes the fever.
A high temperature might make your child feel uncomfortable – he might have chills or shivering when his temperature is rising, and he might sweat when it’s falling. Sometimes he might become mildly dehydrated if he’s losing a lot of fluid from the fever and not drinking enough.
Children between the ages of six months and six years might have a febrile convulsion.
Most fevers and the illnesses that cause them last only a few days. But sometimes a fever will last much longer, particularly if it’s the sign of an underlying illness or chronic disease.
How to care for a baby with a fever
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that caregivers monitor children for signs of illness and make their babies comfortable instead of treating the fever itself.
To care for a baby with a fever:
Monitor the baby’s activity level and overall comfort. Babies who seem happy, alert, and comfortable may not need treatment.
Ensure the baby remains well hydrated. Fever increases the risk of dehydration. Nurse or give formula on demand. Older babies should drink plenty of water. In some cases, a healthcare professional may recommend using an electrolyte drink to prevent dehydration.
Monitor the baby for signs of dehydration that can include not urinating as often as usual, sunken eyes, chapped lips, or very dry or pasty looking skin.
Avoid waking a sleeping baby to give them anti-fever medication.
Under a doctor’s supervision, people can give a baby anti-fever medication if it is in pain or uncomfortable from the fever. The baby’s weight determines the dose, so follow the label instructions carefully. Call a doctor before giving new medication to a baby, especially a sick one.
Do not send a sick baby to daycare or take them to places where babies or other vulnerable people may be, as this can spread infection.
In children aged 3-12 months, fever might be a sign of a more significant illness, so seek medical advice from your GP within the same day.
In children over 12 months, go to a hospital emergency department or call an ambulance straight away if your child has a fever or some bad situations .