No parent wants to watch their child suffer through a fever, but at what point should you worry? Today, I’m bringing you Advice from Nurses for When Your Baby Has a Fever.
Note: this post is not to replace medical information obtained from your primary care provider and is provided as entertainment and not as medical advice.
The average temperature for a young child or baby is around 36.4 C or 97.5 F. However, their temperature can rise above this for all kinds of reasons as their body reacts to infections or other external circumstances.
The cut-off point for fever is a temperature above 38 C or 100.4F. At this level, the body is out of its normal range and reacting to some kind of threat. Fevers are actually a protective mechanism designed to help the immune system better fight infection, but it’s a tradeoff. If body temperature rises too much, it can put your child’s life at risk.
How Can You Tell If Your Child Has A Fever?
The best way to determine whether your child has a fever is to use an accurate thermometer. The reading should be less than 38 C or 100.4 F. If it’s not, then your child’s internal temperature is out of the normal range and indicative of a problem, usually infection.
If you don’t have a thermometer on hand, then you’ll want to take a look at some of these tips from nurses who have been trained at Baylor DNP and have experience of childhood fevers.
- Look at their cheeks. If they’re red and swollen, then there’s a chance that they have a fever
- Check their hands and feet: if they feel clammy, then it’s a sign that their body is trying to cool them down
- Touch their forehead or back; if it feels hot to the touch, then a fever might be underway.
What Should You Do If Your Child Has A High Temperature?
If your child has a “high temperature” or fever, what should you do?
Keep An Eye Out For Signs Of Dehydration
Dehydration is a common consequence of fever. When the body runs a high fever, it’s more prone to sweating to keep internal body temperatures down. Excessive sweating can lead to dehydration. As a parent, you can check for the signs of dehydration. These include dark yellow and strong-smelling pee, dry mouth, lips and eyes, and signs that your child might be dizzy.
Young children especially struggle to communicate their needs so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for the signs. If your child is running a fever, ensure that you provide plenty of clean, fresh, cold water.
Check Your Child During The Night
Children can quickly overheat at night, so you’ll need to check them regularly if they have a fever. Make sure that they can cool off by removing excess covers and clothing.
Don’t Let Your Child Go Out
Keep your child at home while they have a fever so that you can monitor them.
Give Either Ibuprofen Or Paracetamol If Your Child Is Distressed
Ibuprofen or paracetamol can relieve the pain associated with fever and help your child feel less distressed by the experience. Don’t combine the two unless your doctor tells you you can.
Don’t Give Your Child Aspirin
Some children react negatively to aspirin. Choose other pain killers.
Don’t Sponge Your Child
Fever is a healthy response to infection. It’s something that you need to allow your child’s body to do so that it can eliminate whatever threat it faces. Sponging may cool your child down, but it provides unhelpful respite for the infection by preventing the immune system from doing its work,
When Should You Visit The Doctor?
There are some situations in which you should visit the doctor immediately to prevent further complications.
If your child is under three months old and is running a temperature over 38 C, then you need to book an urgent appointment with your general practitioner. A temperature this high at an early age is a potentially severe issue which may require immediate medical attention.
If your child is between the ages of three and six months, then you’ll need to visit the doctor if their temperature breaks the 39 C barrier.
Fevers typically don’t last more than three days. Most children can rid their bodies of regular infection in this time. If your child, however, has been running a temperature for more than five days, then it could be a sign or a much more serious issue which requires immediate medical attention. The body cannot eliminate the problem causing the fever, suggesting that the child needs medical support.
You may also notice that your child doesn’t want to eat. A lack of hunger is a common side-effect of fever. If you’re worried about this, then you should contact your doctor.
Finally, you need to contact your doctor if your baby shows signs of dehydration which don’t go away after drinking. Sunken eyes, dry nappies, and lack of tears when crying are all a sign of serious dehydration.
When It’s An Emergency
Non-life threatening diseases cause most fevers. However, some temperatures are a response to pathogens that the body cannot destroy. These pathogens, such as meningitis, can lead to severe brain damage and death. You must call for immediate emergency assistance if you suspect your child may be suffering from a life-threatening illness.
Look out for the following signs of a severe infection:
- Your child is finding it difficult to breathe and must suck in their stomach under their ribs
- Your child’s crying is high-pitched and not in their usual tone
- Your child has grey or blotchy skin
- Your child has a stiff neck
- There’s a rash on your child’s skin that doesn’t disappear when you press on it.
- Your child is experiencing seizures for the first time, and they can’t stop shaking
- Your child’s hands and feet are extremely cold
Most of the time, a fever is nothing to worry about. It’s a healthy thing that helps the body fight infections. Sometimes, however, temperatures are indicative of a more serious problem. As a parent, you need to be prepared.