Treat a fever fast

Knowing how to reduce a temperature will stop you worrying when your child gets ill

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Mummy I’m hot!’ Children run a temperature at the drop of a hat. It’s simply a sign your baby’s fighting an infection, but taking steps to treat it will make her feel a lot better. Normal body temperature is around 37°C and a high temperature or fever can be anything above 37.8°C. Babies often get a fever after their first immunisations at 2 months. Other causes include a cold, sore throat, ear infection, croup or a virus.

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A child with a temperature will need plenty of liquids as he will sweat more and can become dehydrated. He may also go off his food for a few days, but as long as he’s drinking plenty don’t worry. Sleep, rest and TLC will help him feel better quickly. In the meantime, here’s how to lower a temperature:

Remove layers

Strip your child down to his vest and nappy, or just a nappy if the room is warm. In his cot, only use a light blanket or a single sheet for bedding.

Cool the room

Open a window – the room should be well ventilated but not draughty. Use an electric fan if you have one, but don’t direct it at your child as this may be irritating. The temperature of a child’s bedroom should be kept at a constant 16-20°C (61-68°F).

Give lots of drinks

Water or milk will help keep a baby’s fluid levels up, while a toddler may like to suck on an ice lolly or drink diluted juice.

Soothe a forehead

A cool, damp flannel on the forehead can be soothing. For children over 1 year old, try Kool’n’Soothe Soft Gel Sheets (£2.99, from chemists).

Give them medicine

Children’s painkillers can help reduce a fever. A children’s paracetamol, such as Calpol Infant Suspension, can be used from 2 months, while children’s ibuprofen, such as Nurofen For Children, can be used from 3 months. Always check with a pharmacist that you have the right medicine for your child’s age and follow dosage instructions. Don’t give aspirin to children under 16.

Why keep them cool?

A baby cannot regulate her body temperature and this puts her at risk of overheating, which has been linked to cot death. The Foundation For The Study Of Infant Deaths advises:

  • Put your baby to sleep in a cot in your room for the first six months.
  • Always lay your baby on her back, with her feet at the foot of the cot.
  • Do not smoke around your baby.
  • Use only lightweight blankets and don’t cover your baby’s head. If your baby is under 1, do not use duvets, quilts or pillows, and never use electric blankets or hot water bottles.
  • For info call the helpline on 020 7233 2090 or see www.sids.org.uk/.
  • If your baby has a rapid high fever, it can lead to a fit called a febrile convulsion, which isn’t dangerous but can be distressing. Your child may lose consciousness, wet her pants, twitch or clench her jaw. To protect her head, put a pillow underneath it and turn her head to one side. If the fit happens again or lasts more than 10 minutes, call your GP.

When to see the doctor

  • Your baby is under 6m
  • Her fever isn’t going down despite treatment
  • His temperature lasts more than 24 hours
  • Your child is floppy
  • If your child has these symptoms: cold hands and feet; aching; a headache; a stiff neck; a rash that doesn’t disappear when pressed with a glass.

For info call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or see www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/.

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For more information, visit www.netdoctor.co.uk/.

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