A child with a fever is normally an indication of their body attempting to fight off a bacterial infection or virus. Most fevers last three to four days and can be treated at home. However in some cases a medical professional needs to be consulted to ensure there is not a serious underlying issue that has caused the fever.
How hot is a fever?
A normal temperature is considered to be around 37°C. There are three levels of fever mild, high and very high. A mild fever is between 38–38.9°C and will result in a child with flushed cheeks who is warm to the touch and possibly has less energy. A high fever ranges between 39–39.9°C. Children with a high fever may be less active, have flushed cheeks and be hot to the touch, be fussy and have little interest in food or drink. Temperatures over 40°C are considered very high temperatures and will have the same symptoms as a high fever as well as being very listless.
When should I see a doctor?
Sometimes a fever merits a trip to a doctor or consultation with a medical professional. All children under three months who have a fever should see a doctor, even if their fever is mild. Children up to six months old should be taken to a doctor if they have a high or very high fever. Once children are over six months they should see a doctor if their fever is over 40°C, the fever has lasted three days or they seem to be more unwell or if they are shivering or shaking with chattering teeth. Children should also be taken to the doctor if their fever is accompanied by a headache that won’t respond to painkillers, are complaining of sore legs or have gone floppy, are having trouble breathing or are confused and drowsy. A fever that goes away for twenty four hours or more and then returns is often the sign of an infection that needs to be treated by a medical professional.
How to treat a fever at home.
If your child’s fever does not merit a trip to the doctor there are things you can do at home that will make them feel more comfortable.
- Ensure your children are drinking small amounts regularly. It helps lower their temperature and replace some of the fluid they are losing through sweat.
- Use summer bedding and dress them in cool clothing, try and keep a regular room temperature and do not try and rapidly cool your child to make them shiver.
- Use cold damp clothes on your child’s face and neck.
- Get them in a warm bath, then stand them in the bathroom and let their body air dry (without using a towel).
- Paracetamol or ibuprofen are great to help a upset and unwell child. However they should not be used to lower a fever.
- Check on your child during the night.
Serious illness and issues
Sometimes a fever is a sign of a serious illness such as meningitis. If your child has a fever and has any of the following symptoms take them to a doctor or emergency room immediately. Symptoms of meningitis include hallucinations, vomiting, a stiff neck or a skin rash.
High fevers can sometimes cause fits or seizures in children. Fits can occur without warning and can make a child jerk and shudder or become stiff or limp. A child having a fit can become unconscious or have trouble breathing. If your child has a fit lay them on their side in the side saddle position (previously known as the recovery position). Move any items that may harm them out of the way and if they throw up ensure they do not breathe in or choke on any vomit. If the fit doesn’t end within five minutes call 111 and in all cases take your child directly to a doctor or emergency department once the fit has ended.
If you have any concerns about your child’s fever do not hesitate to seek medical advice from a doctor or healthline on 0800 611 116.