My baby has a fever!
A scary first-time experience for any parent …
Were you worried when your little one felt hot for the first time? Or does it still make you anxious?
No worries, we all feel a bit nervous when our kids are not well. And, even more so when they have a fever.
The reason a lot of us have these uneasy feelings is not really understanding the how and why of a fever reaction.
Are you also wondering:
- what is fever
- what is normal temperature for baby
- or what is baby fever temperature
- when to worry about our baby’s temperature
- and what is a dangerous temperature for baby
- also, what is the best thermometer for babies
- and how to treat fever in babies
A lot of questions! The good news is after reading this post today, you will have the answers to all these and more. And, I know it will help you feel a little less anxious the next time your baby has a fever. Because knowledge is power, isn’t it?
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Why understanding fever is important
Working at a family practice, I treated many patients suffering from fever-related conditions on a daily basis. And I know first hand, the parents accompanying a child or baby with fever often needs assurance even more so than the little one needs treatment.
And this is simply because fever is a scary thing. Parents don’t always understand why it is present, how long it will last, how to handle it or how serious it could be.
So today I want to empower you as a parent, helping you understand this common condition. And the next time your child suffers from fever, you will know exactly why it is happening and what to do.
What is fever
A fever is simply defined as a higher than normal body temperature. This increase in temperature is a natural response to an infection. Sort of a way the body is protecting itself against an attack.
Remember fever in itself is not a disease. It is a symptom or sign caused by various other medical conditions. And, it is needed for the body to be able to fight infection. In other words, fever is a good thing! It shows us that the immune system is working well.
The most important things to know about fever
- fever is part of the normal immune response and
- a crucial part of the body’s normal response to an infection
- serious fever conditions are very rare
- remember it is unusual for teething to cause a fever above 38.5°C
- the symptoms children experience when having a high temperature is
- mostly related to the illness, and not the fever
- often related to the antipyretic treatment – so think twice before giving medication unnecessarily or at a wrong dose
What is normal baby temperature
Normal body temperature range for babies is between 36.4 and 37.4°C. This temperature does, however, depend on
- how it was measured
- where it was measured
- with what instrument
- and at what time
Where to measure temperature accurately
Temperature can be measured
- tympanic, in the ear
- temporal, on the forehead
- axillary, in the armpit
- orally, in the mouth
- rectal, in the anus
Normal temperature for baby: rectal and tympanic
Rectal temperature is the most accurate body temperature to measure in children under the age of four, but not very pleasant or easy.
Therefore parents can effectively measure and rely on the temperature
- in the ear or
- on the forehead via an infrared thermometer
Normal temperature for baby: armpit and oral
Axillary or armpit temperature is generally lower than oral and rectal measurements. And, often difficult to assess accurately in small kids. This measurement should, therefore, be reserved for use by medically trained personnel or at home for kids older than 4 years.
What is baby fever temperature
Knowing what is a dangerous temperature for a baby, is essential. A rectal or tympanic (ear) temperature above 38°C, is considered fever and should always be investigated further.
Symptoms associated with fever
There are many symptoms and signs caused by fever related disease. Some of them are dangerous and should always be checked by a medical expert.
The most common ones include:
- bad appetite
- irritation and restlessness
- flushed cheeks
- uncontrolled crying
The more dangerous ones include:
- excessive sleepiness
- vomiting and dehydration
- abdominal pain
- difficulty breathing
- skin rash
- irritated by light
- difficulty swallowing
and, it is best to consult with your clinic or treating physician when you notice any of these.
When to worry about our baby’s temperature
Studies have proven parents have the ability to detect fever by hand, so you should never ignore your instincts. Even when your thermometer gives a normal reading, if you are worried, seek help!
What is a dangerous temperature for baby
More important than actual body temperature is the symptoms your child have with the fever. We have listed the most common and dangerous one above. But remember disorientation and dehydration are immediate reasons for concern, and you should always act on these without delay.
A couple more guidelines on when to seek immediate medical help when your child has a high temperature:
- when your baby is younger than six weeks and has any fever
- when 3 to 6 months old and temp above 38 °C
- when older than 6 months and temp above 38.9°C
- at any age with signs of
- continued sleepiness
- loss of appetite
What is the best thermometer for babies
You will get a lot of different opinions on whether a thermometer is good or bad. And, most of the time the measurement success relies more on the operator than the actual device.
As a clinician, I have used many different types of thermometers and will recommend a couple of the best ones, in my opinion, below.
The best thermometer tip I can give you
make sure you know exactly how to use the thermometer before you actually need to use it.
When a child is feverish and difficult, it is not the best time to try and figure out how a new device works. Invest in a good one, read the user instructions, practice using it and then you will have no problem getting an accurate reading when you need it.
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Currently, there are three top thermometer options:
- Digital thermometer – for oral, armpit and rectal temperature reading
- Digital ear thermometer – for tympanic temperature reading
- Digital forehead thermometer – for temporal artery temperature reading
Wondering which one to use?
Choose a thermometer according to your child’s age:
- younger than 6 months – digital temporal thermometer
- 6 months to 4 years – digital ear or temporal thermometer
- older than 4 years – digital oral, armpit, ear or forehead thermometer
Now let’s look at a couple of good ones to choose from:
this is my first choice for kids older than 4 years
Although you need a bit of experience to use these basic thermometers, they are the most accurate and reliable.
A good suggestion is to invest in one of these but also have a quick scan digital one at hand. In that way, you have two different options available to get two comparable readings whilst you practice with the basic one.
this is my first choice for kids older than 6 months
This is one of my favorite thermometers for kids. It is slightly more expensive but when you invest in a reliable thermometer like this one, you know it is accurate. And, when taken proper care of, can last for years.
I highly recommend investing in the best thermometer you can, and this is a very good option.
my first choice for babies younger than 6 months
It ensures safe and accurate temperature measurement you can rely on. Definitely worth the investment and you can continue using it for all ages.
When you want a two in one option:
measuring both ear and forehead temperature at all ages.
With a fast and accurate temperature reading within 1 second, this thermometer is great.
All it takes is a slow swipe across the forehead. And, it also comes with a handy Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion option.
How to treat fever in babies
Antipyretic treatment should not be used to decrease the temperature, but rather to ease discomfort. Adverse events related to fever are often because of the antipyretic treatment and not the fever. So never just jump in and give medication just because you had a high-temperature reading!
How to bring down baby fever
In babies older than 3 months with a forehead temperature above 38 degrees C, consider using paracetamol when safe and indicated and preferably prescribed by your treating doctor. Always stick to the recommended dosage. And, don’t forget to increase fluid intake. Even when your baby does not want to take normal feeds, small sips of clear fluid is essential.
Always remember, when a baby refuses all fluids, seek medical help immediately.
What not to do at home when your baby has a fever
- do not give unprescribed antibiotics, the infection might very well be viral
- never give a child aspirin
- never use adult antipyretic medication
- do not use any medication without knowing the correct amount and method of use
Normal temperature for baby summarized
I hope you now know what a normal and dangerous temperature is for your baby and when to seek help. After reading this post you should also understand how to measure and treat a fever safely.
Take home fever messages
- measure temperature for babies younger than 6 months with a forehead thermometer
- measure temperature for kids older than 6 months with an ear or forehead thermometer
- know the numbers for normal and high temperature measurements
- use an accurate and reliable thermometer
- look out for signs and symptoms of a dangerous fever-related disease
- know when to seek medical help
you know your baby best!
And, when you are worried there is definitely something not right. So always act on your instincts and seek medical help whenever you feel the need. Rather safe than sorry!
* Please note: all information in this post is provided to guide you in making the best decision for your child’s health and purely informative. It is not intended as medical advice. Always discuss medically related concerns with your own treating doctor, and follow his or her directions when using any medication or medical devices, including thermometers and antipyretic treatments.
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