It can be scary when your baby has a fever. Here are some tips to help you better understand why your baby has a fever and what you can do to help them.
What is a fever?
A fever is a body temperature that is higher than normal. Your child’s temperature will vary with age, activity, and even the time of day. For example, babies have a higher temperature than older children. In fact, studies show that healthy babies aged 18 to 24 months can have a temperature of 101°F (38.3◦ C). And everyone’s temperature is highest between late afternoon and early evening and lowest between midnight and early morning.
A normal temperature can be anywhere from 97.5°F (36.4°C) and 99.5°F (37.5°C). Most health care providers consider a temperature above 100.4°F (38°C) as a sign of a fever.
What causes a fever?
A fever is important in helping your baby or child fight an infection. Running a fever may be a sign that your baby has the flu or COVID-19. If your baby has an illness of some kind, their body temperature will increase. This increase in body temperature is a sign that some of the body’s other natural defenses, such as white blood cells, are attacking the infection. A fever will make your baby feel uncomfortable. It may make them need more fluids, breathe faster and have a faster heart rate.
Getting a vaccine or teething also can cause your baby to run a fever.
How can I treat my baby’s fever?
First, it is important to get an accurate temperature. Feeling your baby’s forehead will not give you a precise measurement. You need to use a thermometer to get the best reading. A rectal thermometer is the most accurate way to measure a baby’s temperature.
It isn’t always necessary to see your health care provider when your child has a fever. Here are some things that can help:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin® or Advil®) will usually bring down your baby’s temperature. But make sure you give the correct dose.
- Do not overdress your child.
- Alcohol baths and ice packs are NOT recommended.
- Make sure your baby gets a lot of fluids to help prevent dehydration. Signs of dehydration include crying without tears, a dry mouth and fewer wet diapers.
When should I call my baby’s provider?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you should call your child’s health care provider right away if your child has a fever and:
- Is younger than 3 months (12 weeks) and has a temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher. Call even if your baby doesn’t seem sick. Babies this young can get sick very quickly.
- The fever rises above 104°F (40°C) repeatedly for a child of any age.
- Looks very ill, is unusually tired or is very fussy.
- Has been in a very hot place, such as an overheated car.
- Has other symptoms, such as a stiff neck, severe headache, severe sore throat, severe ear pain, an unexplained rash or repeated vomiting or diarrhea.
- Has signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth, sunken or bulging soft spot on their head or significantly fewer wet diapers, and is not able to take in fluids.
- Has immune system problems, such as sickle cell disease or cancer, or is taking medications, such as steroids.
- Has had a seizure. A seizure is when your baby’s whole body or parts of their body move without control.
Also call your child’s doctor if:
- The fever persists for more than 24 hours in a child younger than 2 years.
- The fever persists for more than 3 days (72 hours) in a child 2 years of age or older.
- Your child still seems sick even after their fever is brought down.
- Your child seems to be getting worse.
All children get fevers, and most times they return to normal in a few days. However, call your provider if you’re not sure what to do or if your baby is acting very differently than normal.