You’ve felt your child’s head: it’s hot and clammy. Her temperature’s up. And it looks like a fever’s starting. But what does it mean? And how can you help make your little one more comfortable?
A fever is classed as any temperature reading over 37.5°C. Fever is usually the first sign your child is fighting an illness. This rise in temperature is the body’s way of attempting to kill any infective agents in your child’s system, by making it difficult for viruses and bacteria to survive.
Fever is often caused by a virus and sometimes by bacteria, though viral infections are far more common. A child’s temperature can also rise during teething, after receiving an immunisation, or if they overheat from excess bedding or clothing.
Your child will probably let you know if they have a fever by crying – especially if they’re too young to talk. Older children will tell you when something’s not right, but you may have to ease their worries by describing what’s happening and why.
To confirm a fever, you should use a thermometer to check whether your child’s temperature is above 37.5°C. Three types of thermometers available in most pharmacies or baby stores are:
- Digital display thermometer – these are placed either in your child’s armpit, or under the tongue if your child is old enough to keep the thermometer there
- Tympanic digital thermometer – these are placed in the ear, and may be easier to use than other thermometers. Tympanic thermometers are appropriate for infants older than 6 months, older children and adults.
- Fever strip – these are placed across your child’s forehead, though are less accurate than the digital types.
A fever is usually considered to be any temperature over 37.5°C when measured under the arm. You should always seek medical attention for fevers over 38.5°C, or if you are concerned about their temperature.
A temperature isn’t the only possible sign to watch out for. If a child has fever, they may also:
- Be irritable
- Appear hot and flushed
- Shiver uncontrollably
- Feel unwell
- Vomit suddenly
Although fever doesn’t always indicate a serious illness, you should always see your doctor if:
- Your child is aged under 6 months
- Your child is vomiting and refuses to drink
- Your child is in pain
- Your child appears more sleepy than usual
- The fever rises above 38.5°C
- The fever lasts longer than a day
- The fever is accompanied by other symptoms, such as a stiff neck, rash or problems breathing
- If you feel worried or concerned
Most fevers are not serious and tend to go away on their own once the illness or infection clears up.
Keep your child comfortable and hydrated the next time they have a fever. Throughout the day, and during any restless periods at night, give your child small amounts of a clear fluid, such as water, diluted fruit juice or cordial.
Giving your child a simple pain reliever such as Nurofen for Children can help ease their discomfort and relieve their fever symptoms.
Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Do not give to babies under 3 months of age. Seek medical advice for children under 12 months of age.
All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health related matters please contact your doctor.
This information is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for medical advice.
Always rely on your doctor for diagnosis and seek his or her advice if your or your child’s symptoms persist.
- NHS Choices. Treating a high fever in children. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/treating-high-temperature-children.aspx#close Accessed 12 August 2014.
- Sullivan JE et al. Pediatrics 2011;127(3):580–7.
- Healthdirect. Fever in children. Available at: http://www.healthdirect.gov.au/fever-in-children Accessed 15 August 2014.
- The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. Kid Heath Info: fever in children. Available at:http://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Fever_in_children/ Accessed 15 August.
- Better Health Channel. Fever- children. Available at: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Fever_children?open Accessed 12 August 2014.
This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.
Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional.