A fever is when your baby or child’s temperature is higher than normal. In children, a temperature over 38 degrees indicates a fever.
A fever is usually a sign of an infection such as a virus or something caused by bacteria. A high fever does not necessarily mean your child has a serious illness, will not cause brain damage and once the infection has cleared, your child’s temperature will return to normal.
An infection caused by a virus does not require treatment with antibiotics. Antibiotics do not cure viruses. If your child has a bacterial infection they will be treated with antibiotics.
You may want to take your child’s temperature, if they are unwell and showing any of these signs:
- In pain.
- Vomiting or refusing to drink/eat.
- More sleepy than usual.
- Feel hot to touch.
- The aim of fever management is to keep your child comfortable.
- Dress your child in enough clothing so they are not shivering.
- Encourage frequent sips of small amounts of clear fluids.
- If breastfeeding, continue to do so, offer more feeds frequently.
- Do not worry if your child refuses to eat, BUT continue to encourage fluids.
- Watch for signs that their illness is getting worse.
- Also see Dehydration.
When to see your doctor?
- Child complains of a stiff neck (infants may appear distressed when you pick them up).
- Light sensitive / light hurting their eyes.
- Child appears to be in pain.
- Breathing problems.
- Decreased urine output / wet nappies.
- Vomiting and refusing to drink / eat.
- Not their usual self.
Fanning children and tepid sponging, is NOT recommended.
If your child has a temperature but is well and happy (‘Hot and Happy’) there is no need to give them medication such as paracetamol. If your child has a fever and is miserable, give them paracetamol. Giving analgesia is only helpful in lowering your child’s fever for comfort. The analgesia may not make the fever go away but it will make the child feel better.
Key points to remember:
- Fever is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s the bodies natural response in fighting infection and your child’s temperature will return to normal when the infection has cleared.
- A high fever does not necessarily mean your child has a serious illness.
- Don’t focus purely on the number on your thermometer, how does your child appear? Are they ‘hot and happy’? How do they look?
- Fevers do not cause brain damage.
Babies under 3-months with a fever MUST be seen by a medical professional. You know your child better than anyone, so if you are unsure and concerned at anytime, seek medical attention.