Information for parents
Fever is common in babies and children. Most fevers are caused by an infection and children often have fevers with minor illnesses such as colds.
What is a high temperature?
If temperature more than 38°C (100.4°F)
How to take your child’s temperature?
The best way to take your child’s temperature is using a thermometer under the armpit.
Does a fever mean my child is very ill?
Although it can be scary when your child’s temperature rises, fever itself causes no harm and can actually be a good thing, as it’s often the body’s way of fighting off infection. In most cases a fever should only be treated if it’s causing discomfort. A higher temperature is not always a sign of a more severe infection. It should be considered with other factors relating to how well the child is, such as drowsiness, difficulty breathing and how much they are drinking. It is also possible for children to have severe infections without a fever.
What can cause fever?
Most fevers in children are caused by a viral infection and the child will start to get better in a few days without any treatment. In some cases a fever may be the sign of a more serious infection which may be viral, bacterial or caused by other infections. Doctors will look for a rash, check your child’s ears and throat and a sample of urine may be collected. Sometimes a blood test can be required. In most children, if there are no signs of a severe infection it will mean that a viral illness is causing the fever.
Managing fevers and febrile convulsion
Follow this advice to help your child feels comfortable. It’s important for your child to drink small amounts of fluid, little and often to prevent them from getting dehydrated. Ice cream or jelly may be a good way of getting your child to take fluid if they don’t want to drink. Make sure your child is dressed comfortably, so that they aren’t too cold or too hot.
Do not sponge your child down with water as this can make them shiver and add to their discomfort!
National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) Guidelines say that medicines should not be given if the only reason is to reduce a temperature. You can give paracetamol and ibuprofen if your child is distressed or in pain, following the instructions on the packet. Try not to give paracetamol and ibuprofen at the same time. If you try one and it does not work, wait until it’s time for your child to have their next dose before trying the other one.
You should seek expert medical advice if your child:
1, seems to be getting worse,
2, has a rash that does not go away when pressure is applied or a glass pressed over it,
3, is not taking enough fluids,
4, has excessive drowsiness or tiredness,
5, has a fever that lasts more than five days,
6, has other symptoms that you are concerned about,
7, has the first febrile convulsion in his/her life,
Febrile convulsion is a fit (seizure) that sometimes happen in young children when they have a fever. They look frightening but are usually harmless. Febrile convulsions happen in children aged six months to six years old and around 3% of children will have one febrile convulsion in their lifetime. Febrile convulsions can affect any child, but occur more commonly if another close family member has had one or if the child has had one before. Most last for only a few minutes and do not need treatment. Children who have had a simple febrile convulsion will be awake and acting normally within one hour of the convulsion finishing. A third of children who have had a febrile convulsion will have more. Having a febrile convulsion does not mean that your child has epilepsy.
What to do if your child has a febrile convulsion?
Lay them on their side, with their face turned sideways. This helps to keep the airways clear. Make sure they are in a safe area and cannot hurt themselves. Do not try to hold them still or stop the jerking movements. Do not put anything in their mouth. If the convulsion lasts for more than five minutes, dial 104 (National Ambulance Service). If this is your child’s first febrile convulsion they should be seen by a doctor. If this is the second one (or your child has had several), they do not necessarily have to see a doctor, but should do so if you have any concerns. There is no treatment or medicine that will prevent a febrile convulsion happening. If you have any questions or concerns please contact the on-call pediatric doctor in your area.
Krisztina Szakacs MD Pediatrician Consultant
1, Fever and Febrile Convulsion, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, NHS Foundation Trust,