baby has a fever

What To Do If Your Baby Has A Fever?

If your baby wakes up in the middle of the night crying and feeling flushed, you’ll need to take their temperature to determine if they have a fever. 

When your child has a fever, it is a sign that their immune system is fighting off an infection. There are many reasons why your little one might develop a fever.

Reducing the fever will not get rid of the infection, but it can relieve some discomfort and allow for an opportunity to re-evaluate your child’s symptoms.

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When Your Newborn Has A Fever

As adults, we have a tightly controlled thermostat to help regulate our body temperature. 

When we’re cold, we shiver to help raise our temperature, and when we’re too hot, we sweat to help cool ourselves down. 

These mechanisms, on the other hand, are not entirely developed in newborns. What’s more, newborns lack the insulating fat layer that older babies and children grow.

Because a newborn’s temperature regulation system is immature, fever may or may not occur with infection or illness. 

However, fever in babies can be due to other causes that may be even more serious. 

Call your baby’s doctor immediately if your baby younger than two months old has a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher. 

This requires an urgent evaluation by your doctor.

In older infants and young children, a fever is any rectal temperature of 101 degrees or higher. 

Call the doctor if your 3-6-month-old has a temperature of 101 or greater. 

With babies and children older than six months, you may need to call if the temperature is more significant than 103, but more than likely, associated symptoms will prompt a call. 

A rectal temperature between 99 and 100 degrees is a low-grade fever and usually does not need a doctor’s care.

Baby Has A Fever

Why Do Babies Get Fevers?

Fevers are generally a symptom of a more significant medical condition.

Your infant may develop a fever for many reasons, including:

  • a viral infection
  • a bacterial infection
  • certain vaccinations
  • another medical condition

Common causes of fevers in children include respiratory illnesses like colds and ear infections.

Fever in newborns may be due to:

Infection

Fever is a normal response to infection in adults, but only about half of newborns with a disease have a fever. 

Some, especially premature babies, may have a lowered body temperature with infection or other signs such as changes in behaviour, feeding, or colour.

Overheating

While it’s essential to keep your baby from becoming chilled, your baby can also become overheated with many layers of clothing and blankets. 

This can occur at home, near heaters, or near heat vents. It can also happen if your baby is over-bundled in a heated car. 

Never leave your baby alone in a closed car, even for a minute. 

The temperature can rise quickly and cause heat stroke and death. If your baby is overheated, they may have a hot, red, or flushed face and may be restless. 

To prevent overheating, keep rooms at an average temperature, about 72 to 75 degrees, and dress your baby the same way you feel comfortable at that temperature.

Low Fluid Intake Or Dehydration

Some babies may not take in enough fluids, which causes a rise in body temperature. 

This may happen around the second or third day after birth. 

If fluids are not replaced with increased feedings, dehydration (excessive loss of body water) can develop and cause serious complications. 

Intravenous (IV) fluids may be needed to treat dehydration.

In sporadic cases, fever can signal a life-threatening disease called bacterial meningitis. 

If your infant has a fever greater than 101 degrees and is lethargic, or you can’t get them to wake up usually, you should take your infant to the emergency room immediately.

Does Teething Cause Fevers?

Teething isn’t considered a cause of fever. However, it may be that your teething infant has another underlying condition causing the fever.

Identifying A Fever

The average temperature hovers somewhere close to 98.6°F (37°C). However, this temperature can vary slightly from morning to evening. 

Body temperatures are generally lower when you wake up and higher in the afternoon and evening.

Infants under three months old with fever require immediate medical attention to diagnose the underlying cause and treat it if necessary.

Infants are considered to have a fever if their temperature is:

  • 100.4°F (38°C) or higher when taken rectally
  • 99°F (37.2°C) or higher when taken by other methods

Low-grade fevers don’t always require a visit to your doctor for infants older than three months.

Taking Baby’s Temperature

For babies and toddlers up to 3 years old, taking the temperature rectally by placing a thermometer in the baby’s anus is best. 

This method is accurate and will give a quick reading of your baby’s internal temperature.

Underarm temperature measurements may be used for babies ages three months and older. 

Other types of thermometers, such as ear thermometers, may not be accurate for newborns and require careful positioning to get a precise reading. 

Skin strips that are pressed on the skin to measure temperature are not recommended for babies. 

Touching your baby’s skin can let you know if they are warm or cool, but you cannot measure body temperature simply by touch.

Oral and rectal thermometers have different shapes, and one should not be substituted for the other. 

Do not use oral thermometers rectally as these can cause injury. 

Rectal thermometers have a security bulb designed specifically for safely taking rectal temperatures. 

To take your infant’s rectal temperature, follow these steps:

Place your baby across your lap or changing table, on their stomach, facing down. 

Place your hand nearest your baby’s head on their lower back and separate your baby’s buttocks with your thumb and forefinger.

Using your other hand, gently insert the lubricated bulb end of the thermometer one-half inch to one inch, or just past the anal sphincter muscle. 

Stop immediately if the thermometer meets resistance.

The thermometer should be pointed toward your baby’s navel.

Hold the thermometer with one hand on your baby’s buttocks so the thermometer will move with your baby. 

Use the other hand to comfort your baby and prevent moving.

Never leave your baby unattended with a rectal thermometer inserted. Movement or a change in position can cause the thermometer to break.

Hold the thermometer for at least 1 minute or until an electronic thermometer beeps or signals.

Remove the thermometer.

Wipe the bulb.

Read the thermometer immediately and write down the temperature, date, and time of day.

Disinfect the thermometer with rubbing alcohol or an antiseptic solution.

If your baby’s temperature is 100.4 degrees or higher, make sure they are not crying or dressed too warmly. 

Retake your baby’s temperature in about 30 minutes. If the temperature is still high, call your baby’s doctor immediately.

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How Do You Bring Down A Child’s Fever?

If your child has a fever, there are ways to provide relief and help reduce the fever:

Acetaminophen

Consider using fever-reducing medication such as infant acetaminophen (Children’s Tylenol) or infant ibuprofen (Children’s Motrin). 

If your child is over three months, you can offer them a safe amount of children’s acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Check the label or call your pediatrician for the correct dosage for your child. Do not give aspirin to children age 18 or younger.

Doses are usually based on weight. However, your doctor may recommend weighing your baby if they haven’t recently been considered or if they’ve had a recent growth spurt.

If your baby isn’t uncomfortable or fussy from their fever, you may not need to give them any medication. 

For higher fevers or other symptoms that make your infant uncomfortable, medication can temporarily help them feel better.

Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are the two medications for children that help fight fever. 

Acetaminophen can be given to infants over three months without calling the doctor, but children under six months should not be given ibuprofen. 

Read the instructions on the package or ask your doctor to be sure you give appropriate doses. 

Do not give more than the recommended dose of either medication. If your child is vomiting or dehydrated, be sure to consult your pediatrician.

NEVER give your baby aspirin to treat a fever. 

Aspirin has been linked to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially severe illness that affects the nervous system and can be debilitating or fatal in children.

Adjust Their Clothing

Dress your infant in lightweight clothing and use just a sheet or light blanket to keep them comfortable and relaxed.

Remove unnecessary clothing to make your child feel comfortable. Dress your child in lightweight, breathable clothing.

Overdressing your infant may interfere with their body’s natural methods of cooling down.

Turn Down The Temperature

Keep your home and your infant’s room cool. This can help prevent them from overheating.

Comfort

Cover with a light sheet if your child appears chilled.

Give Them A Lukewarm Bath

Try sponging your baby down with lukewarm water. 

(Water temperature should feel warm, but not hot, to the touch on your inner arm.) Maintain constant supervision during bathing to ensure water safety.

Apply a lukewarm sponge bath to help lower your child’s temperature. 

Please do not put your child in cold water or use rubbing alcohol to cool him/her off. Rubbing alcohol, inhaled or absorbed through the skin, can be toxic.

Avoid using cold water, as this can lead to shivering, which may increase their temperature. 

Dry your baby off immediately following the bath and dress them in lightweight clothing.

Alcohol baths or wipes to lower fevers aren’t recommended and can be harmful.

Offer Fluids

Dehydration is a possible complication of fever. Offer regular fluids (breast milk or formula) and ensure your baby has tears when crying, a moist mouth, and traditional wet diapers.

Offer plenty of fluids to drink. Prolonged fever can lead to dehydration. Call your doctor’s office to discuss ways to keep your child hydrated if this is a concern.

Things To Avoid

There are several things you should not do if your infant has a fever:

  • Do not delay medical attention for a newborn with any fever or an infant with persistent fever or looks pretty ill.
  • Do not administer medication to your infant without first checking their temperature and consulting your doctor’s office.
  • Do not use medication intended for adults.
  • Do not overdress your infant.
  • Do not use ice or rubbing alcohol to lower your infant’s temperature.

When Should You Worry About A Fever?

Call the emergency hotline if the child:

  • Is limp or unresponsive
  • Is having trouble breathing
  • Is vomiting and has a headache or a stiff neck
  • Has blue lips or skin
  • Has a rash that looks like bruises, and the bruises don’t go white when pressed.
  • Has a seizure

A high temperature can be alarming, but it usually isn’t something profound in an otherwise healthy child. Instead, a fever often means that a body is working the way it should and fighting off infection.

Call Doctor If:

  • You think the child needs medical attention.
  • The child is younger than three months old with a rectal temperature of 100.4 F or higher.
  • The child is three months to 3 years old and has a fever of 102 F or higher or has had any fever for more than one day.
  • The child has a high fever lasting more than 24 hours.
  • The child is any age with a temperature of 104 F or higher.
  • The soft spot on the child’s skull is bulging.
  • The child vomits repeatedly or has severe diarrhea.
  • The child has signs of dehydration, such as not wetting diapers, crying without tears, dry mouth or mucous membranes, or sunken soft spots.
  • The fever triggers a seizure.
  • The child has a fever and a rash.

Your child is at particular risk of severe infections. This includes children with blood or immune disorders or any child who has not received routine immunisations.

Baby Has A Fever

Treating Fever In Children

For Infants Younger Than 3 Months Old

Take Temperature

The most accurate way to take a temperature is rectal. If you are uncomfortable with this, then take the temperature under the armpit.

If it is higher than 99 F, double-check it rectally using a rectal thermometer to get the most accurate reading.

Call Your Pediatrician

If the child’s temperature is higher than 100.4 F, call your pediatrician. Their pediatrician should always see a child this age if they are sick.

Bathing or sponging the child with lukewarm water may help bring down a fever. Do not use cold water, ice baths, or alcohol.

Do not give any medicine unless discussed first with the doctor,

For Children, 3 Months Old Or Older Who Have Been Immunised

Take Temperature

Rectal. For a child under 4 or 5 months, use a rectal thermometer to get an accurate reading. 

A child has a fever if the rectal temperature is above 100.4 F.

Oral. For a child over 4 or 5 months, you can use an oral or pacifier thermometer. The child has a fever if it registers above 100.4 F.

Ear. If the child is six months old or older, you can use an ear or temporal artery thermometer, but this may not be accurate. 

Still, under most circumstances, it’s a reasonable way to get a good enough estimate. If you must get an accurate reading, take a rectal temperature.

Armpit. If you take the child’s temperature in the armpit, a reading above 100.4 F usually indicates a fever.

If Temperature Is Below 102 Degrees F

You don’t need to treat the fever unless the child is uncomfortable or has a history of seizures with fever.

Make Sure The Child Gets Plenty Of Fluids And Rest.

If Temperature Is Above 102 Degrees F but Below 105 Degrees

You can give infant- or child-formula acetaminophen (Tylenol), following dosage instructions on the package. 

Ask your pediatrician before giving any fever-reducing medicine to a child for the first time.

Bathing or sponging the child with lukewarm water may help bring down the temperature. Do not use cold water, ice baths, or alcohol.

Do not give aspirin to a child under 18 years of age because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome, a dangerous brain disease.

Call your pediatrician to see if you need to bring your child in to see the doctor.

Follow Up

A child should not return to school or daycare until the child is fever-free for at least 24 hours.

Call your pediatrician if the fever lasts for more than two days, gets higher, or you are concerned.

Conclusion

Treating a fever in an infant will vary based on the child’s age and the symptoms surrounding the craze.

Newborns must be seen by a doctor immediately if they develop a fever, while older infants may be treated at home if they develop a mild fever.

Always check with your doctor before giving any medication to your infant, and see a doctor if your child develops a high fever or if the fever lasts longer than a day or two.

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