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 the child is seriously sick. A fever is part of the body's defense mechanism for the usual minor illnesses of childhood.

Fever in an infant

A fever in a small infant (under 6 months of age) must be taken seriously. You can check this using a thermometer specially designed for this age group; usually even a first time mum can tell a baby has a fever by feeling their baby’s skin. Of course you can always check with a thermometer. The exact figure for the temperature is not nearly as important as how well your baby is – a fever in a drowsy baby is far more serious than a fever of the same level in a baby who is alert and drinking.

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, speak to a healthcare professional.

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 are more of a concern, but how sick the child acts 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.

You might also like: