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One of the scariest things for a mother is to see her baby suffering from fever. You may not know what to do when you find your baby all hot and flushed in the middle of the night. Well! What is more important at this juncture is to soothe your baby and recognise the need for medical help.
Fever is when your baby’s thermostat raises the normal temperature of your baby’s body. Fever is an indication of some infection that your baby’s body is fighting with. So, if you find your little one’s forehead or body warmer than usual, you may want to check the temperature to confirm if he/she has a fever or not.
What Body Temperature is Considered as Fever in a Baby?
If you are a new mother and it is the first time that your baby has a fever, it is important for you to know what baby temperature is considered as fever temperature in babies. Your baby’s normal temperature may vary from 97 degrees Fahrenheit to 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit(36-38 degrees Celcius). If your baby’s body temperature is more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, it is considered that he/she has a fever.
What Causes Fever in Infants
A fever indicates that your baby’s immune system is fighting an illness. The fever in itself is not an illness; however, it is the symptom of an illness that your baby’s body is dealing with. There can be a number of reasons for high fever in babies, some of the reasons are:
- Overdressing your baby or spending more time out on a hot day, may increase your baby’s body temperature.
- Fever can occur due to a reaction to a certain vaccination.
- Your baby may have a fever because of an ear infection.
- Urinary tract infection or UTI in babies can also lead to fever.
- Pneumonia is one of the reasons of fever in babies.
- Viral infections such as flu, common cold or intestinal infections may cause fever in babies.
- Some serious conditions like meningitis or blood bacterial infections may also cause fever in babies.
Sign and Symptoms of Baby Fever
If your baby is down with fever, you may find your baby’s forehead warm but it does not mean that if it isn’t, he does not have a fever. You may notice that your child is cranky and irritable; however, there are other signs to watch out for as well. The most notable signs and symptoms of a viral fever in babies are as follows:
- You may find that your baby has difficulty in sleeping.
- You may notice that your baby is not feeding properly.
- You may find that your baby is inactive or lethargic.
- You may notice your baby’s lack of interest in playing and other activities.
- In some cases, you may notice seizures and convulsions as well.
Viral or Bacterial Fever?
Your baby may have a fever due to viral or bacterial infections. A viral fever results from viral infections, such as common cold, flu or intestinal infections etc. It usually subsides within three days and does not require a course of antibiotics, because antibiotics don’t work for viral infections.
A bacterial fever results from bacterial infections, such as UTI, bacterial pneumonia, bacterial meningitis or ear infection (ear infection can be caused because of a viral infection too). Bacterial infections do not occur often and these infections may lead to severe health complications in your baby. Most cases of bacterial infections require a course of antibiotic medicines.
How to Take Your Baby’s Temperature
In order to treat a fever the correct way, you must know what the accurate temperature is and the primary requirement is to have a good digital thermometer. You may take your baby’s temperature in the following ways:
Taking Temperature Orally
The best way to take the temperature is orally, but it is not a recommended option until your baby is four years or older. Thus you may adopt other options such as checking the rectal temperature or use axillary methods of measuring the temperature.
Taking Temperature Rectally
Taking temperature rectally is not only an easy option when it comes to babies and infants, but it also shows more accurate results than any other methods of measuring body temperature. It is recommended to thoroughly wash and clean the thermometer for the rectal use. Make your baby lie on the tummy, apply some petroleum jelly on the tip of the thermometer and gently insert the thermometer into the rectum for about an inch. Remove after the thermometer beeps and record the readings.
Taking Temperature Under the Armpits
To take the temperature from a baby’s armpit, you will need to partially undress him. Make sure the child’s armpit is dry and the tip of the thermometer is in constant touch with the skin, till it beeps. This method has a lower rate of accuracy than the rectal method. If your baby is less than three months of age, it is advised not to use this method.
Fever Complications in Babies
Fever may cause complications in babies and some of the complications that may arise are as follows:
- Febrile Seizure: A fever may cause a febrile seizure in babies. In this condition, the baby’s body may become stiff. Vomiting, drooling and rolling eyes are other symptoms of febrile seizures.
- Recurrent Fever: In some cases, the fever may be present for more than three to four days or relapse after a while. This may happen when the infection isn’t cured and needs a longer treatment.
- Asymptomatic Fever: Sometimes fever in babies is devoid of any evident symptoms, such as running nose, vomiting, cough or diarrhoea. It becomes difficult to know the exact cause of the fever. It is best to seek medical help to know the underlying cause of the fever.
Fever results when the defence system of your baby’s body acts against the various viruses and bacteria. Fever is also helpful in making white blood cells which helps fight infections naturally. If the temperature is very high, because of heat or overdressing, you may remove the extra layer of clothing and make your baby rest in a cool place. However, if your baby has a fever because of other reasons, you will need to get in touch with your doctor. In fact, a fever in babies less than 3 months is always urgent to address. Your doctor is the best person to guide you regarding how to bring down baby fever.
Medicines to Use
Your doctor may advise you to give ibuprofen or acetaminophen to bring down the fever (ibuprofen is not recommended for babies under 6 months). However, you may need to be extra careful while giving any medicine to your baby. The following tips will help make the task easier for you:
Tips to Give Medicines
- Measure the dose as per the weight of your baby.
- Do not give medicines for more than the prescribed limit.
- Refrain from giving Aspirin to your baby as it make him more susceptible to conditions such as Reye’s Syndrome.
- Refrain from giving over the counter medicines to your baby (Consult your doctor, if you need to.)
Sponging your baby with fever is a great way to bring down body temperature and is one of the most effective baby fever remedies. You may also give a sponge bath or an actual bath with lukewarm water. Make sure to use lukewarm or tepid water for sponging and not cold water. Do not sponge bath your baby with rubbing alcohol. The alcohol is absorbed by the body and may reach your baby’s bloodstream. It may lower the temperature quickly but eventually, it will cause a rise in temperature.
Home Remedies for Fever in Babies
Home remedies should be used for treating various ailments in babies as they have minimal to negligent side-effects and rather help the child build a robust immune system.
Here are a few home remedial measures that you may follow in case your baby has a fever:
- Reduce the dressing: The first thing to do is to remove any extra clothes that your baby is wearing. Removing layers helps the body lose heat from the skin. But if you notice that your baby is shivering, do cover him/her with a light blanket.
- Stay Indoors: Do not go out in the sun. It is recommended that you remain indoors in a cool place.
- Switch on the fan: You may switch on the fan at a low speed to bring down your baby’s temperature.
- Hydrate adequately: Make sure you give plenty of fluids to your baby to keep him/her well hydrated.
- Lukewarm water bath: You may give a lukewarm bath to your baby, as it helps in bringing down the body temperature.
- Forehead presses: Use a soft washcloth dampened it with tepid water over your baby’s forehead to bring down the temperature.
Do remember that if home remedies do not help bring the baby’s temperature down quickly, it is important to consult a paediatrician.
When to Call the Doctor
Often high fever in babies requires immediate medical attention. Make sure you call the doctor, if you notice any of the following:
- In case your baby is three months or younger and has fever more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher than that, you need immediate medical intervention.
- In case your baby is older than three months and looks or acts sick, and has a high fever which persists more than 24 hours, call your doctor.
- If your baby is in the 3 to 6 months old age bracket and has fever more than 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher and has other symptoms along with it, seek your doctor’s help.
- You should also call your doctor if you notice fewer wet diapers than usual.
- If your baby has difficulty in breathing.
- If your baby has rash or spots on the body.
Most cases of fever in babies do not cause any complications and result from viral or bacterial infections. However, whatever the cause of the fever is in your baby, it is important to seek a remedy if it does not resolve quickly. It is recommended to get in touch with your baby’s doctor, as soon as you register any kind of fever in your baby. Timely action can save your baby from any serious complications.
Read this article in Arabic: الحمى عند الأطفال