Dealing with fever in newborns and babies

A fever means that your child's body is fighting an infection. Fever by itself doesn't mean that the child is seriously ill. A low to medium fever is part of the body's defence mechanism for the usual minor illnesses of childhood.

Fever in an infant

A fever in a small infant (under 2 months of age) must be taken seriously. Rectal temperatures over 38 °C (100.4 °F) are considered elevated. It's not advisable to use an ear thermometer at this age.

What you can do

If your baby's (under 2 months of age) temperature is up, remove one layer of clothing and check his temperature again in 15 to 20 minutes. If it isn't back to normal in that time or if your baby is acting lethargic, not feeding or is extremely fussy, call your doctor.

What to tell your healthcare provider

Report whether or not your baby is eating well, easy to awaken, alert or showing any other signs of illness. Mention whether or not your baby has been exposed to any illnesses in the last week or two, and whether he has any chronic health problems.

Fever in an older baby or toddler

As a general rule, fevers over 39.4 °C (103 °F) indicate a more serious illness than fevers under 39.4 °C, but how ill the child is acting is more important than the height of the temperature.

What you can do

If your baby is over three months old, give him paracetamol to reduce the fever or discomfort if you wish. Never give a baby aspirin. Warm baths also bring down fevers in children, provided they don't get chilled and start to shiver. Shivering means that the body is actually increasing its temperature, which is the opposite of what you want.

What to tell your doctor

Keep a close eye on your child's temperature. If you become concerned or if he's starting to look ill, report it to your doctor.

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