Baby Temperatures

What does your baby's temperature tell you? How should you take her temperature and what is normal?

Babies and young children can’t actually tell you when they feel pain, but a high temperature is a key way to spot possible danger or illness quickly.

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Recent research in Australia showed that many parents did not know what constituted a high temperature and either treated a baby for the condition when their temperature was normal, or gave incorrect doses of medicines.

What is a high temperature?

Babies and children have what constitutes a high temperature if they go up to 38 degrees C or over. Above this it is advisable to reduce the amount of clothes they are wearing (but not too quickly in case they suddenly get the shivers), move them to a room which is not hot and stuffy, make sure they are drinking liquids (cool boiled water, breastmilk or formula, in the case of babies under one year) and possibly to give them a baby paracetamol such as Calpol or Nurofen for Children (NOT regular Nurofen).

If you are using medicine you MUST read the label as these infant suspensions vary in their strength and dosage.

Read the packaging carefully as babies under three months are not usually permitted to take these medicines. However, some of these infant suspensions do now have a ‘from two month’ limit. If you are concerned about the need for a medicine under this age (some mothers like to have something on hand in case early vaccinations push their baby’s temperature up), your doctor might be able to prescribe an infant medicine but you will not going to be able to buy one over the counter at a chemist.

If your baby’s temperature stays above 38 degress C for some time or is touching 40 degrees C or over, you should call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or your GP as soon as possible as overheating can cause your baby to have a fit or convulsions even if the reason for his high temperature is not in itself a major longterm worry.

Babies and small children often get a raised temperature for a short period when their body is simply dealing with something small – like a vaccination or a cold. However, temperature accompanied by limpness, unability to feed or wake up, or rashes should always be a cause for immediate concern and you should call your GP straight away.

Thermometers
There are different ways to take a baby’s temperature. However, the thermometer strips you can get to place across your child’s head aren’t always reliable and taking an underarm temperature can be awkward. Many health professionals use an ear thermometer which gives a quick digital reading. (Check the instructions carefully as taking the temperature of a small baby differs slightly from taking an adult or older chld’s temperature.)

Ear thermometers aren’t particularly cheap, but they can be used again and again, making them cheaper in the long run than other less easy to use alternatives. A Braun ThermoScan, for example, is widely available and costs around £35.

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Temperature watching
Sometimes taking a quick temperature can allay your fears as your baby might seem hot but not be as bad as your hand tells you.
However, you should try to avoid temperature-watching every half an hour and instead keep an eye on your child’s condition generally. Make a note of temperatures you do take in case you do need to talk to your doctor or NHS Direct.

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