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Mother and Baby
Baby Health A-Z: Fever

It’s horrid but it’s your baby’s defence mechanism when fighting infection.

What is it?

A normal temperature is 36-37 degrees. Anything above that constitutes a fever. It’s often an indication that baby’s fighting an infection such as a cold, flu, sore throat or ear infection. Immunisations can cause your baby’s temperature to spike, as can teething. It rarely lasts more than a couple of days.

What are the symptoms?

Their brow, chest or back will feel hot to the touch and their cheeks may be flushed and their skin clammy. They may also be tearful and uncomfortable – partly from whatever’s causing the temperature, partly because a fever will make them feel unwell too.

What can you do?

A digital thermometer (available in pharmacies) will give an accurate temperature reading. Simply tuck it under their arm and it beeps when it’s ready to read. Ear thermometers are good but tend to be expensive and strip thermometers are less successful because they read the skin not the body temperature. 

Don’t let them overheat – strip them off

If your baby’s over two months you can give them infant paracetamol, over three months and they can have infant ibuprofen. Don’t let them overheat – strip them off. And offer plenty of fluid – regular breast/bottle feeds and cooled boiled water – to stop them dehydrating.

When to see your GP?

If your baby’s under three months and has a temperature of 38 degrees or higher, or under six months and is suffering at more 39 degrees or more then see your doctor because it is unusual for children so young to get a temperature. Similarly if your feverish baby has an unexplained rash or is particularly sleepy – both can be signs of a more serious problem. If little one’s refused fluid for more than eight hours or drunk less than half their usual amount in 24, it could lead to dehydration.

Very occasionally a high temperature causes a febrile convulsion

Symptoms include sunken fontanelles (the soft spots on their head), dry lips, darker than normal urine and/or fewer wet nappies. Very occasionally a high temperature causes a febrile convulsion. This kind of fit is scary but rarely causes any harm. Most children stop fitting within five minutes. You may want to take them to the doctor or A&E afterwards to get them checked and may even call 999 during it, especially if it’s gone on longer than five minutes or your child’s never had a fit before.

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