It can be concerning when a baby has a fever. However, a fever is a sign that the body is fighting an infection and that the immune system is working.
Low-grade fevers may even be beneficial to very young children, but high-grade fevers can indicate a serious infection.
In this article, we look at how to reduce a baby’s fever, what to avoid doing, and when to seek help.
A baby’s body temperature is usually around 98.6°F (37°C). Babies have a fever if their body temperature is:
- 100.4°F (38°C) or higher when taken rectally
- 99.4°F (37.4°C) or higher when measured in other areas, such as the ear or forehead
Babies often get very high fevers. A fever itself
However, the infection that causes a fever can be very dangerous, even if the fever is not high.
When a baby has a fever, a caregiver’s focus should be on treating the underlying cause of the fever, not the fever itself.
The right treatment will depend on the baby’s age, the severity of the fever, and any other symptoms.
A doctor may recommend specific medication to bring down a fever. Never use aspirin, and do not give a baby anti-fever medication designed for adults.
It is crucial to follow the instructions on packaging or from the doctor. In most cases, the right dosage depends on the child’s weight. Double-check the dosage, and make sure that the tool for giving the medication uses the right measurements.
A person should only give fever-reducing medication to babies and children according to official guidelines, and preferably under a doctor’s care. For babies younger than 3 months, do not use this type of medication without talking to a doctor first.
In the United States, 2–5% of babies and children have a febrile seizure before the age of 5, and these seizures are not usually dangerous. They are triggered by a fever, usually as a result of a cold, flu, or ear infection. Anti-fever medication does not reduce the risk of having a seizure.
If a doctor does not recommend giving a baby anti-fever medication, the following home care techniques may still help:
- Drinking fluids: The goal is to keep them hydrated, so giving them plenty of water is best.
- Dressing them lightly: Dress the baby in lightweight layers, not heavy clothes or a coat.
- Washing: Practice aggressive handwashing and other hygiene measures to prevent the infection from spreading.
- Nursing: If the baby is breastfeeding, it can help to nurse them on demand.
Breastfeeding can supply the baby with antibodies to help fight the infection. It also helps keep them hydrated and may ease their pain. Even if the caregiver is ill with the flu,
If a baby has a fever:
- Do not use home remedies instead of medical care to treat symptoms of an infection, such as a fever or pain.
- Do not apply cool or lukewarm cloths to the baby if they show signs of discomfort, such as crying or shivering.
- Do not stop breastfeeding them.
- Do not give the baby medication unless a doctor recommends it, and then follow the instructions carefully.
- Do not limit the baby’s fluid or food intake.
- Do not take the baby out in public or send them to daycare.
The most reliable way to take a baby’s temperature is rectally.
First, lubricate the tip of a thermometer. Place the baby on their side or stomach, and gently insert only the bulb of the thermometer into their rectum. Do not use glass thermometers, and do not force the thermometer.
It may help if the baby nurses while someone takes their temperature. If the baby resists, try waiting until they are deeply asleep.
If a baby under 3 months old develops a fever, seek immediate medical attention. If it is not possible to get in touch with a pediatrician, go to the emergency room.
Babies under 1 month old may need
If an older baby or toddler develops a fever, call a doctor for guidance. If there are no other symptoms, it is unlikely that the illness is serious.
If a doctor recommends a treatment but the symptoms do not improve within a few days, call the doctor again.
Go to the emergency room or call 911 if a baby develops a fever and:
- seems lethargic or confused
- shows signs of trouble breathing, such as gasping, wheezing, or flaring their nostrils
- shows signs of an allergic reaction to the medication, such as a rash or trouble breathing
- was born prematurely
- has a compromised immune system
- has a seizure for the first time or has a second seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes
Treating a fever in babies depends on their age and symptoms. Every child is different and has different risk factors.
If any baby under 3 months develops a fever, contact a doctor immediately. A baby aged 3 months or older with a mild fever can benefit from treatment at home, but it is still a good idea to contact a healthcare provider for advice.
Overall, it is best to seek medical help without delay and be mindful that a fever can indicate a serious infection.