Fever in babies: when should I be worried?

My baby has a high temperature

Your baby’s forehead or neck is a little warmer than usual. Maybe he or she is acting a little different than what you are used to. You take the thermometer to measure the baby’s temperature. Your suspicion is confirmed. Your child has a fever!

Fevers in Babies can be very scary, especially for first time parents. At one point, every baby will experience his or her first fever. In most cases, it’s probably not a cause for panic. It is however advised to always be cautious and examine the child regularly.

What should I do if my baby has a fever? When should I be worried?

Let’s start with a definition:

What is a fever?

Most doctors and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) consider a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher as a fever.

The normal body temperature for babies in degree celsius can range between 36.1°C (97°F) and 37.2°C (99°F) or more according to the Mayo Clinic.

A fever is not a sickness. It is usually a sign that the body is fighting an illness and the immune system is functioning.

What is the most accurate way to take a temperature?

There are many ways to measure a child’s temperature, but it is most accurate to use a rectal thermometer for infants and toddlers. This is also the American Academy of Pediatrics thermometer recommendation.

“When taking temperature under arm, do you add a degree?” is a frequently asked question you might have heard before. While it is true that the rectal temperature is on average higher than if you take it under the arm pit, it is suggested to tell the medical professionals how you took the fever and let them make the adjustments by themselves.

When to worry about fever?

You should call your doctor when your baby:

  1. is under 3 months and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
  2. is 3 to 6 months old with a fever of 101°F (38,5°C) or higher or the fever lasts for more than one day
  3. is 6 to 12 months old with a fever of 103°F (39,5°C) or higher or the fever lasts more than one day
  4. is 1 to 2 years old with a high fever lasting more than one day
  5. has a fever of 104°F (40°C) or higher
  6. has a fever that lasts more than 5 days
  7. is not responsive (less active, lack of interest in play)
  8. doesn’t act like himself/herself
  9. shows signs of dehydration (fewer wet diapers, dry mouth, no tears with crying)
  10. has a fever that doesn’t come down with fever reducers
  11. has problems breathing
  12. has problems eating
  13. has an unexplained rash

In any case, if you feel concerned and are not sure what to do, you should call a medical professional.

Sources (1, 2, 3, 4)

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