Fever in your baby

Having an elevated temperature, or fever, is a common occurrence in childhood. A raised temperature is thought to play a role in fighting infection. Fever is defined as a body temperature above 37.8 C orally or 38.2 C rectally or by ear. Fevers and their associated illnesses can make children feel very uncomfortable and miserable but there are things you can do to make them more comfortable and reduce the temperature.
  • It is a natural instinct to wrap an unwell child in warm layers. However, this will only make them hotter. The best situation for a child with fever is in a room of comfortable temperature, with light clothes on.
  • A lukewarm face cloth may be wiped over their forehead and limbs in an effort to cool them down. Cool baths are no longer recommended as these can cause further distress and have not been shown to reduce core temperature.
  • Give the child plenty of water or rehydration fluid as fever can cause dehydration. Encourage them to rest. This is one time when I am grateful for the wonders of TV and DVDs.
  • Medications such as paracetamol (eg Panadol or Dymadon) and ibuprofen (eg Nurofen) can be used to reduce temperature and facilitate comfort. Ibuprofen is of particular benefit at night as it lasts longer in the body, giving you and child a better night’s sleep. Speak to your pharmacist about which medication and what dose is most suitable for you child. Never give a child aspirin as it can cause a fatal condition called Reye’s syndrome.
There are many types of thermometers available to monitor the temperature. The good old fashioned mercury thermometer is still good value. However, these can be tricky to read and must be in place for at least 2 minutes.  Digital thermometers give an efficient read out and let you know when it is time to read. Ear thermometers take less than a second to take their readings and better reflect the core temperature. They are great for children that won’t sit still for the other types. These do require calibration on each person before illness strikes as the normal temperature may vary slightly between people.
It is important to refer to your doctor if any one of the following occurs:
  • The fever is very high (above 39 C).
  • The fever lasts for more than 48 hours.
  • A child is not taking in at least half the normal volume of fluids.
  • The fever is accompanied by stiff neck or vomiting.
  • The child appears very unwell, delirious or extremely lethargic.
  • Is an infant