How to treat a fever in babies and young children
Has your baby got a high temperature? Here's what to do to help them cool down – and the key signs that mean you need to call a doctor
Babies don't have very good themostats. They can get overheated – and therefore run a high temperature – very easily. Sometimes, it can just be that they've got a bit hot – maybe they've got too many clothes on or, if they're mobile, they've been charging around the place. Other times, a high temperature can be a temporary reaction to immunisations or a sign that your child is fighting an infection.
Whatever the cause, you need to help them get their temperature down. And, with lots of extra rest and cuddles, make them much feel less hot and bothered...
Here are 6 simple steps to cool your child down when they're running a fever
1. Remove unnecessary layers
It used to be thought that stripping your child down to their vest and nappy was the right way to bring a fever down but experts now agree that this doesn't have any affect on a fever. What can help, though, is removing any extra layers that may be causing your baby to overheat.
What temperature is a fever in babies and young childen?
Your child has a fever is their temperature is 38°C or above.
If your baby is under 3 months old – and particularly if they are under 1 month old – and they have a fever, take them to see a doctor.
For babies over 3 months old, take them to the doctor if their temperature rises to 39°C
2. Cool the room
Open a window, to make the well ventilated but not draughty. Use an electric fan if you have one – but keep it directed away from your child. At night, you're aiming to keep the temperature in your child's bedroom at between 16°C and 20°C (61°F and 68°F).
3. Offer plenty of drink
A child with a temperature will need plenty of liquids as a high temperature make them sweat more, which can lead to them becoming dehydrated. Water or (breast or formula) milk will help keep their fluid levels up. If your child is already eating solid foods, sucking on an ice lolly can help.
When to seek medical help for your baby's feverWhat matters more than your baby's actual temperature is the way they seem. If they're responsive and easily comforted, they're probably fine. But do call a doctor if:
- Your baby is under 3 months old
- Your baby is crying inconsolably or very weakly
- Your baby is having trouble breathing
- Your baby's being sick or has diarrhoea
- Your baby is floppy or their lips are blue
- Your baby has cold hands and feet and/or a rash that doesn't disappear when pressed with a glass
- Your baby has had a fever for more than 5 days
4. Sponge their forehead
A warm, wet flannel on the forehead can be really soothing. You can try sponging down their arms and neck, too, if your child likes it.
5. Give them an age-appropriate dose of child paracetamol
If your baby is over 8 weeks old, you can give them children's paracetamol. Always check with a pharmacist that you have the right medicine for your child's age and follow the dosage instructions exactly.
More like this
My baby's having a fit. What do I do?
If your baby has a rapid-onset high fever, it can lead to a fit – which doctors call a 'febrile convulsion'. These look pretty scary but they're usually all over within 5 minutes and rarely have any long-term repercussions. If your child is still convulsing after 5 minutes, though, or has another fit soon afterwards, call an ambulance,
While it's happening, resist the urge to restrain your child's movements; just move them to a soft surface and wait for it all to pass. Once it has, offer a reassuring cuddle and a sponge-down with lukewarm water. Call your doctor later for advice on what to do if it happens again.
Pics: Getty Images
Helen is author of the classic advice book Parenting for Dummies and a mum of 3. Before joining MadeForMums, she was Head of Community at Mumsnet and also the Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby.
Six big family moments that matter – and the products that make them easier to navigate
These products from John Lewis & Partners help support the memorable moments of family life.