Fevers in children – should I be worried?

Your child has a fever when their body temperature is over 38 degrees celsius. A fever is our body’s natural defence mechanism against a virus or bacteria. Goooo immune system!

When we get sick with a virus or bacteria, the thermostat in the brain (aka the hypothalamus) cranks up the heat. It does this because a warm environment is not a good environment for these bugs to survive in.

So a fever isn’t a bad thing?

Not necessarily…

A fever will make your child feel really unwell, however it’s a sign their immune system is doing exactly what we want it to do. A fever on its own is rarely harmful.

What about if my baby is under three months?

Yep good point, this is the exception.

A baby with a temperature over 38 degrees is considered a medical emergency and they need to be assessed by a doctor urgently, preferably in hospital even if they have no other symptoms.

This is because a young infant’s immune system is under developed and their little bodies can struggle with infection. They are also at a higher risk of developing sepsis (a severe, sometimes fatal complication of an infection).

So my little one has a fever. What should I do?

The aim of fever management is to make your child comfortable, not to get rid of the fever itself. If your child has a fever, is over three months of age, and is otherwise well you may not need to do much at all.

Any tips on keeping my little one comfortable?

Yep, we have heaps!

You can give paracetamol and/or ibuprofen if they are distressed or in pain, more info on pain relief here

A nasal aspirator / saline nasal spray / drops may help clear a stuffy nose

Light layers of clothing, don’t overthink it, if they are cold, add a layer, if they are hot take one off

Lots of rest and cuddles

A warm bath or shower can be super comforting and also help clear a stuffy nose

Focus on hydration and monitor for dehydration. Hot tip (lol, see what we did there), we have an entire blog post on this here

What about antibiotics?

Antibiotics are great for treating a bacterial infection but will do nothing for a viral infection. If you are worried your child has a bacterial infection a doctor can do a swab to determine if the illness is bacterial or viral and prescribe antibiotics if it is bacterial.

What not to do?

Contrary to popular belief you should not put your child in a cold bath to try and get rid of a fever. Remember we don’t actually need to get rid of it, we just want to make our little ones comfortable.

Putting a child in a cold bath or shower can cause shivering which actually increases body temperature, interesting right!

When should I take my child to the GP?

  • You are concerned for any reason or;
  • Any symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration
  • Your child has had a fever for over 48 hours
  • Refusing to drink fluids
  • They have a fever and a rash

When should I call an ambulance or take my child to an emergency department?

  • Under three months with a fever (even if they have no other symptoms)
  • Immunocompromised with a fever
  • Signs or symptoms of severe dehydration
  • Floppy or unresponsive
  • Pale or mottled skin that is not normal for your child
  • Any signs of respiratory distress (breathing difficulty)
  • A non blanching rash (you can read more about what this is here)
  • Your instinct tells you something is seriously wrong

So to recap, a fever is our body’s way of trying to destroy a bacteria or viral infection. We do not need to try and get rid of the fever but we should make our children as comfortable as we can. If you are concerned at all you should take your child to see a doctor ASAP. If you want to learn more about fevers, febrile convulsions and much more, book in a course with us today!




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