It can be concerning to wake up in the middle of the night to a crying baby, and find they’re flushed or hot to the touch. The thermometer confirms your suspicions: Your baby has a fever. But what should you do?
It’s important to learn how to comfort your feverish baby and recognize when you need to seek medical care.
While you may be able to feel a temperature difference through touch alone, it’s not an accurate method of diagnosing fever. When you suspect that your baby has a fever, take your baby’s temperature with a thermometer.
A rectal temperature of more than 100.4°F (38°C) is considered a fever. In most cases, a fever is a sign that your baby’s body is fighting an infection.
A fever can stimulate certain bodily defenses to protect against invading viruses and bacteria. While this is a positive step in fighting infection, a fever can also make your baby uncomfortable. You may also notice that they’re breathing faster.
Speak with your pediatrician about administering a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These usually reduce fever by at least a degree or two after 45 minutes or so. Your pharmacist or doctor can give you the correct dosage information for your baby. Do not give your baby aspirin.
Make sure your baby isn’t overdressed, and be sure to offer fluids regularly. Dehydration can be a concern for a feverish baby.
If your baby is younger than 3 months and you’ve taken a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, call the doctor.
Newborn babies can have difficulty regulating body temperature when they’re sick. This means they may become cold instead of hot. If your newborn has a temperature lower than 97°F (36°C), call the doctor.
Sometimes, babies older than 6 months can have seizures that are triggered by fever. They’re called febrile seizures, and they sometimes run in the family.
In many instances, a febrile seizure will take place during the first few hours of the illness. They can be just seconds long, and usually last less than one minute. A baby may stiffen, twitch, and roll their eyes before becoming limp and unresponsive. They may have skin that looks darker than usual.
It can be a very concerning experience for parents, but febrile seizures almost never result in long-term damage. Still, it’s important to report these convulsions to your baby’s doctor.
If your baby seems to be having trouble breathing, call 911 or your local emergency services immediately. Also call immediately if the seizure continues for more than five minutes.
A fever can be frightening, but it’s important to remember that it’s not usually a problem. Keep a close eye on your baby, and remember to treat them, not the fever.
If they seem uncomfortable, do what you can to offer comfort. If you’re feeling unsure about your baby’s temperature or behavior, don’t hesitate to speak with your child’s doctor.