When your baby gets a fever, it can be a difficult and scary experience for you. Unfortunately it’s very likely that your little one will experience spikes of temperature during their childhood. It’s always horrible to watch your child go through any illness, however fevers actually play a large part in helping kids when they’re unwell. So to help you get through it, here’s what you need to know – from how to tell your child has a fever, when to act and what to do.
What is a fever?
It’s the body’s way of fighting something. So although a fever makes them uncomfortable and irritable, it’s their little immune system’s way of fending off a cold or minor infection. However, with all children (but especially babies and infants) it’s really important to keep a close eye on your child’s temperature.
Normal body temperature is 38oC or 98.6oF, anything above this is considered a fever
Watch for other signs like lethargy, poor eating and sleeping which could indicate a more serious infection, and could escalate into a convulsion or seizure. Make sure you invest in a good quality digital thermometer to accurately assess your baby’s temperature – sometimes babies can feel hot to touch, but their core temperature is normal.
A fever can come on quite suddenly, but it’s important to remember that the severity of the fever doesn’t necessary mean the illness is severe.
What should you do?
If your baby is older than three months, there are some things you can do at home to try and bring their temperature down:
You can try putting them in cooler clothing (but don’t undress them completely), or put more clothing on them depending on whether they’re feeling hot or cold.
Look out for signs of dehydration – these can include a dry mouth, no tears, sunken eyes and, in babies, fewer wet nappies and a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on the head). Keep them hydrated by continuing breastfeeding, bottle feeding or offering water.
Medication can often help bring down a fever and make your baby more comfortable. If your child seems distressed, consider giving them children’s paracetamol or ibuprofen, however these shouldn’t be given together. Baby paracetamol is safe to give babies more than a month old, but always check with your health professional first. Babies under six months should not be given ibuprofen, and babies should not be given aspirin either.
When should you call the Doctor?
If you’re worried about your baby or child, call your GP practice. If the practice is closed, call NHS 111 or contact your GP out-of-hours service – there will be a phone number on your GP’s answerphone.
*is under three months old and they have a temperature of 38C (101F) or higher
*is three to six months old and has a temperature of 39C (102F) or higher
*may be dehydrated
*develops a red rash that doesn’t fade when a glass is rolled over it
*has a fit (convulsion)
*is inconsolable and doesn’t stop crying, or has a high-pitched or unusual sound when crying
*has a fever that lasts for more than five days
*is getting worse rather than better
*You have any concerns about looking after your child at home
Always get medical advice if your baby…
When a fever becomes an emergency
If your child has any of these symptoms, you need to act quickly to get your child to hospital:
Severe vomiting that prevents your child keeping anything down.
*They have difficulty swallowing or breathing.
*Their breathing is abnormally fast.
*The soft spot (fontanelle) on a baby’s head is bulging.
*They are fitting or convulsing.
*Their neck is stiff or rigid.
*They have a rash.
What should I do if my baby has a seizure?
Children can have a febrile convulsion or seizure when they have a high temperature, and this is quite common between the ages of six months and six-years-old.
During a febrile seizure, the child’s body usually becomes stiff, they lose consciousness and their arms and legs twitch. Some children may wet themselves. This is known as a tonic clonic seizure.
While seizures are frightening, most will stop after about five minutes.
Try and stay calm, lay your child on their side and make sure they don’t have anything in their mouth.
If this is your child’s first seizure, it lasts longer than five minutes, or your child’s breathing isn’t normal or they vomit after the convulsion, call an ambulance. While it’s unlikely that there’s anything seriously wrong, it’s best to be sure.
Almost all children make a complete recovery after having a febrile seizure.
Always remember to seek medical advice if you’re unsure about your child’s health.
While this article maybe has some scary reading, it’s also important to remember that your baby is most likely fighting some minor infection and with the proper treatment will be back to their usual happy self very soon. So try not to panic and don’t hesitate to seek advice if you need it. Lots of parents hold off calling professionals with the worry they will be classed as being over protective or hypochondriacs. Use your intuition and if you think your baby needs medical care, ask for it.
For more advice on this topic and any other childhood illness, have a look on the NHS website.