Fever in babies: Symptoms, Causes and Management
When your baby is very little, and as they continue to grow, they will continually be developing and strengthening their immune system.
While they are in your tummy, they will get some immunity from you and this will help them when they are first born. After that, one of the ways they will build their immune system is by combatting different infections and bacteria as they come into contact with them. This is happening all the time with your baby, and a lot of the time you won’t even realize it. It’s a very natural and on-going process, even for us as adults.
One of the ways you might notice that your baby is battling it out with a new illness, virus or bacteria is if they are experiencing a fever.
It may seem scary to see your baby experiencing a fever, but most of the time, this is a natural occurrence as their immune system fights off something that shouldn’t be there. There are a number of causes and symptoms, and we’ll talk through some of them in this article, as well as what you need to do if your baby is experiencing a fever.
Why does my baby have a fever?
Pyrexia, the fancy term for fever, is the body’s immune system responding to something that shouldn’t be there. This could be a common infection such as a cold of flu, bacteria that has entered the body, or more severe viruses and illnesses.
What happens when my baby has a fever?
The first thing you’ll notice when your baby has a fever is that they have a very high temperature. They will feel very hot to the touch, and probably be quite red as their blood flows to the skin surface to try and cool them down. They will also cry – a lot!
It’s important to know what a normal temperature is for your baby, so that if they go above this, you know you should seek medical help.
The normal temperature range for a baby and small children is 36.4C (97.5F). Anything around this temperature is generally considered normal, and this will flux slightly which is natural.
A fever is considered to be anything above 38 °C (100.4 °F). Babies are very sensitive to temperature changes, so anything above this can be dangerous.
How do I take my baby’s temperature?
There are a few different ways to get an accurate measurement of your baby’s temperature. The best way to do this is by using a digital thermometer. This will give you the most accurate reading. It’s also the best one to use with younger, wriggly babies!
Make sure you take your baby’s temperature when they are at a normal resting state – so not just after a bath.
Here’s how to use a digital thermometer to get the most accurate reading:
· Make sure the thermometer is clean and dry
· Turn it on and wait to make sure the screen is clear of any old readings
· Make sure your baby is comfortable – lay them down on their back or hold them on your lap
· Place the thermometer gently under your baby’s armpit, in the middle. Make sure the thermometer has contact with bare skin for the best reading
· Hold your baby’s arm down gently over the thermometer and leave it there for at least 15 seconds
· Check the reading
Never use an old fashioned, mercury thermometer with your baby. Strip thermometers are also no good as they will not give you an accurate reading. For older babies and children you could use an electronic ear canal thermometer, but a digital one is still the most accurate.
If you suspect your baby has a temperature, measure their temperature a few times over the course of a day or two. If their temperature is peaking and reaches over 38 °C on consecutive readings, make sure you get medical help.
Are there any other symptoms I should look out for?
A fever on it’s own is quite common, but sometimes it will be accompanied by other symptoms. It is very important to know warning signs to look out for. Babies can quickly deteriorate when they are unwell and struggling to fight some unknown infection.
Other symptoms to look out for alongside a fever include:
1. Wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing
If you notice at any point that your baby is struggling to breathe, make sure you seek medical attention immediately. This could be a sign of a severe infection in their chest or airways and they will need medical support to help overcome this.
2. Vomiting and refusal to eat
It is very important that babies eat regularly. If they are experiencing a fever and vomiting or refusing to eat make sure you seek out medical attention. This could be a sign of bacteria or infection in their stomach that they are unable to battle.
Your baby should never be bleeding. If you notice blood in their urine, stools, vomit or mucus make sure you seek medical attention immediately.
Any type of rash should be checked by a doctor as soon as possible, especially if accompanied by a fever. This could be anywhere on the body, including the legs and arms – never rule this out as something serious and seek medical help.
How do I help my baby overcome a fever?
If your baby is simply experiencing a fever, with no other symptoms, there are a few natural cures you can use to help them overcome their fever until you are able to take them to see your doctor:
1. Create a cool, calm environment
The best treatment for a fever is plenty of rest and relaxation, as this will help aid your baby’s body to do it’s thing and overcome the fever. Keep them well rested, and keep their room cool and calm to help try and regulate their temperature.
2. Make sure they are properly hydrated
Plenty of feeds will help keep your baby’s strength up. If they do not want to eat their usual amount all in one go, make sure you feed them smaller amounts but more regularly as this will help them to get the nutrients and hydration they need.
3. Over the counter remedies
If the fever is not very high, and they have no other symptoms, try speaking with your pharmacist who can recommend safe, over the counter remedies to help your baby fight the fever. Always follow the instructions given to you by the pharmacist and stick to the stated dose.
4. A cool compress
Try using a cool compress on your baby’s forehead to help keep them cool and regulate their temperature.
5. Lots of cuddles and support
Your baby will need lots of support and comfort from you. You may find they are too hot and uncomfortable to be cuddled by you continuously, so try laying with them in a cool room and holding their hand, stroking their head and soothing them. Your attention will let them know their pain is not unnoticed and can work wonders in helping them overcome the fever.
One last thing: Make sure you get medical help
A fever is not something to take lightly, especially if it goes on longer for more than a day or two. If your baby is also listless, drowsy and unresponsive with a fever, make sure you seek emergency medical attention.
Even if the fever does not seem that bad, they may still be struggling to fight the underlying cause (infection, bacteria etc). Your doctor will be able to diagnose and make recommendations for treatment to ensure your baby is back to happy and healthy as quickly as possible.