Fever in Infants and Children
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What is a normal temperature?
A normal temperature is about 37°C (98.6°F) when taken orally (in your child’s mouth) and 37.5°C (99.5°F) when taken rectally (in your child’s bottom).
Normal temperature range
36.6°C to 37.9°C (97.9°F to 100.2°F)
35.5°C to 37.7°C (95.9°F to 99.9°F)
34.7°C to 37.1°C (94.5°F to 98.8°F)
35.8°C to 37.9°C (96.4°F to 100.3°F)
|Temporal Artery (forehead)||
36.6°C to 37.9°C (97.9°F to 100.2°F)
Symptoms of fever in infants and children
- Constant vomiting or diarrhea
- Dry mouth
- Earache or pulling at ears
- Fever comes and goes over several days
- High-pitched crying
- No appetite
- Pale appearance
- Severe headache
- Skin rash
- Sore or swollen joints
- Sore throat
- Stiff neck
- Stomach pain
- Swelling of the soft spot on an infant’s head
- Unresponsiveness or limpness
- Wheezing or problems breathing
What causes fever in infants and children?
Most fevers are caused by infections (bacteria or virus). Other reasons for a fever include:
- Certain medicines. A heat-related illness.
- Autoimmune disorders (when your body mistakenly attacks healthy tissue).
- Some childhood vaccinations
How is fever in infants and children diagnosed?
To take your child’s temperature rectally, use a digital thermometer. Place them belly-down across your lap. Coat the tip of the thermometer with petroleum jelly (brand name: Vaseline) and insert it half an inch into the rectum. Stop if you feel any resistance. Hold the thermometer still and do not let go. When the thermometer beeps, remove it and check the digital reading.
To take your child’s temperature orally, use a digital thermometer. Place the end of the thermometer under their tongue. Go towards the back of the mouth. Have your child close their lips on the thermometer. Tell your child not to bite down or talk. When the thermometer beeps, remove it and check the digital reading.
Never use a mercury thermometer. Mercury is poison.
Other temperature-taking tips include:
- Label your rectal thermometer so that it isn’t accidentally used in your child’s mouth.
- Start by cleaning the thermometer in warm, soapy water. Rinse well with cool water.
- For oral temperatures, wait 20 minutes after your child eats or drinks hot or cold foods and drinks before taking his or her temperature.
- Don’t bundle your baby or child up too tightly before taking his or her temperature.
- Don’t take your child’s temperature right after he or she has had a bath.
- Never leave your child alone when using a thermometer.
- When you are finished, clean the thermometer again with rubbing alcohol or with cool, soapy water.
Fever in infants and children treatment
Acetaminophen can be given to reduce a fever. Ibuprofen (brand names Children’s Advil, Children’s Motrin) is another medicine that can be used to lower a fever in children older than 6 months of age. The correct dosage depends on your child’s weight and age. If your child is between 3 months of age and 3 years of age and has a low-grade fever (up to 39°C [102°F]), you may want to avoid giving them medicine. If your child is achy and fussy, and their temperature is above 39°C (102°F), you may want to give them some medicine.
These medicines start working in about 30 minutes, and 2 hours after they are given, these drugs will reduce the fever 1°C to 1.5°C (2°F to 3°F). Medicines do not bring the temperature down to normal unless the temperature was not very high before the medicine was given.
You should not routinely alternate between acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
Tips on giving medicine
- Don’t give more medication than recommended.
- Don’t give a baby younger than 3 months of age any medicine unless your healthcare provider tells you to.
- Read package labels carefully. Make sure you are giving your child the right amount of medicine.
- For liquid medicines, use a special liquid measuring device to be sure you give the right dose. Get one at your drug store or ask your pharmacist. An ordinary kitchen teaspoon may not hold the right amount of medicine.
If your baby is younger than 3 months of age and has a rectal temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or higher, contact your healthcare provider or go to the emergency room right away. A fever can be a sign of a serious infection in young babies
Never give your child aspirin for any reason. Aspirin can cause Reye’s syndrome in children. Reye’s syndrome is a serious illness that can lead to death. Healthcare providers recommend that parents should not give aspirin to children younger than 18 years of age.
What else can I do to help my child feel better?
It’s important to make your child comfortable when they have a fever. Things that can help include:
- Give your child plenty of fluids to drink to prevent dehydration (not enough fluid in the body) and help the body cool itself. Water, clear soups, popsicles and flavored gelatin are good choices.
- Don’t force them to eat if they don’t feel like it.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
- Keep the room temperature at about 21.1°C to 23.3°C (70°F to 74°F).
- Dress your child in light cotton pajamas. Overdressing can trap body heat and cause your child’s temperature to rise.
- If your child has chills, give them an extra blanket. Remove it when the chills stop.