A fever can be very frightening for a parent. Many parents feel anxious when a high temperature persists and wonder if they should consult their doctor or treat their child at home. Often, a child’s high temperature will return to normal within 3 days without medical treatment. However, it’s important to know when to seek medical help to prevent your child from getting sicker.
Your child’s temperature is considered high once it reaches 37.5 degrees Celsius and above. A normal temperature is around 36.4 degrees Celsius, varying from child to child and depending on the time of day.
What Causes a Fever?
A fever is not an illness itself, but an indicator of illness. We get a fever as a result of our body fighting an infection. The infection can be either bacterial or viral. The body temperature rises in order to slow down the growth of the infection by making the body a less comfortable place for the germs to live. A fever is not always a reason for concern unless your baby is very young or is exhibiting other symptoms.
Babies 3 Months Old and Under
If your baby is 3 months old or less, you should consult a doctor as soon as you discover that their temperature is 37.5 degrees Celsius or above. Babies this young do not have a strong immune system and they may struggle to fight off any infections. It is not recommended to attempt to treat a fever at home when our baby is so young. To check your young baby’s temperature accurately, use a thermometer which goes under the arm as this will be more accurate for them. Always make sure the thermometer is pressed to the top of your baby’s armpit with their arm closed over the thermometer. Keep it in place for as long as the instruction manual indicated and try to avoid your baby moving it at all. Do not take your child’s temperature just after a warm bath or being swaddled in a blanket.
Babies 3 Months Old and Older
With older babies and children, it may be possible to treat their fever at home without consulting your doctor. Take note of how your child is acting, if they are in a bad mood, seem lethargic, sleeping more, refusing food and drink and not responding normally to people then they should see a doctor. If your child is in good spirits, you may be able to manage their temperature at home.
Treating a Fever At Home
- Give them plenty of fluids and keep a note of how much they drink. If you’re breastfeeding, increase your water intake to help hydrate your baby. If your child is reluctant to drink water, you may find it helpful to use a medicine syringe to frequently give them small amounts of water.
- Look out for signs of dehydration such as infrequent urination (less than 6 wet nappies per day), sunken eyes, no tears when crying and the soft spot on their head appearing sunken.
- Encourage them to eat as much as possible.
- Check on them regularly during the night.
- Keep them at home.
- Ask your pharmacist about fever-reducing medicines such as paracetamol. Make sure you know your child’s weight so you can dose correctly.
- Seek medical advice if you’re worried at all. Trust your instincts, you know your child best.
- Undress your child, give them a cold bath, use cold flannels or sponges. This actually raises your child’s core temperature because it is now fighting an infection and attempting to warm up the skin. A lukewarm bath may help your child to feel more comfortable.
- Cover them in too many clothes or blankets. Ensure their skin can breathe so their body can carry out its normal rhythms.
Go to A&E or call 999 if your child:
- Has a stiff neck
- Has a rash which doesn’t fade when you press a glass against it
- Is bothered by light
- Has a fit (uncontrollable shaking)
- Has unusually cold hands and feet
- Has pale, blotchy, blue or grey skin
- Has a weak, high-pitched cry unlike their usual cry
- Is drowsy and can’t stay awake
- Is finding it hard to breathe and sucks their stomach in beneath their ribs
- Has a soft spot on their head which is now curving outwards.
This blog post is not intended as medical advice.