Parenting & Children's Health Data Verified

Fever in Babies: When to Call the Doctor

Written by
Dr. Vasantha K S
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Dec 18, 2017 and last reviewed on Aug 11, 2022   -  3 min read


Fever is a non-specific symptom. When babies have fever, it can be traumatic for the parents as well, because they are unsure of what is causing it and how to soothe the baby. Adding to their anxiety, the baby is unable to explain his/ her discomfort in words. This article deals with how to take care of a baby who is down with fever and when to seek medical help.

Fever in Babies: When to Call the Doctor

Fever is not an illness by itself, but a symptom. It can be due to virus or bacteria. Viral fevers that come with the common flu or cold tend to subside within three days. They do not require antibiotics as these medicines have no effect on the virus. On the other hand, bacterial fevers like urinary tract infection or ear infections are more critical and require the administration of a course of antibiotics.

Irrespective of the cause of fever, a rectal or ear temperature higher than 100.4 F (38°C) or an oral or underarm temperature higher than 99.5 F (37.5°C) is considered a fever.

Rectal Temperature Testing

In babies under six months, the ear canals are still too small and temperatures recorded using an oral or ear thermometer are not too accurate. So, it must be recorded using a rectal thermometer which gives the most accurate reading.

1. Clean the thermometer with soap and water and wipe dry.

2. Coat the bulb of the syringe with petroleum jelly for ease of insertion.

3. Place the baby on the changing table face up with their legs bent towards their chest with your free hand resting on the back of their thighs. Alternatively, you can place the baby facing down on your lap with your free hand resting on their lower back.

4. Switch on the thermometer.

5. Insert the bulb half to 1 inch into the anus. Stop if you feel any resistance.

6. Hold it in place lightly for two minutes until you hear the beep.

7. Read the temperature.

8. Wipe it well with rubbing alcohol, rinse and dry.

9. Label it as rectal so that no one mistakenly uses it orally.

Some Signs to Watch out For

Trust the signs rather than the number on the thermometer. If the baby is under three months old, fever of any temperature is considered serious. Since temperature regulation in such young babies is still developing, it is advised to consult the doctor as quickly as possible.

You can suspect fever in babies if:

It is recommended to check their temperature immediately so you know if the fever is getting worse or going away with treatment.

When to Call the Doctor

Regardless of your baby's age, it is important to call the doctor if fever is accompanied by the following symptoms:

  1. Vomiting.
  2. Diarrhea.
  3. Skin rashes.
  4. Fewer wet diapers.
  5. Seizures.
  6. Breathing difficulty.
  7. Trouble swallowing.
  8. Change in skin color.
  9. If you suspect he/ she is not acting normal.


What You Can Do at Home

Keep the baby hydrated with lots of fluids, be it breastmilk, formula, clear soup, or boiled and cooled water.

If the baby takes solids, let them eat when they feel like. Do not force them to eat any more than they want to.

Allow them to go about their usual activities if they choose to. Bed rest is not necessary if they would rather be active.

Do not overdress them. Dressing them in loose cotton clothes with the head and forehead uncovered will keep them comfortable.

You can give them sponge baths with lukewarm water. Never use cold water for sponge baths.

Avoid sending them to childcare or nursery until the fever subsides.

Check on them often during the night.

Give fever-reducing medicine if they are approved by the doctor.

Tips on Giving Medicine

Do not give the baby any medicine without the consent of the doctor, especially for babies younger than three months.

Give the correct dosage according to the baby's weight. Dosage is not calculated by the age.

When in doubt, always consult the doctor or pharmacist.

Always read the label and packaging instructions to avoid mistakes.

Do not give more than five doses in a day.

Do not wake the baby to give medicine. Allow them to rest.

Fever is a healthy sign that the baby's immunity is fighting off infection. Usually, it is alright to let the fever run its course. When it comes to deciding if and when to take the baby to the hospital, trust your instincts. If you feel the baby seems too off, it is always a good idea to seek medical attention right away.

For more information consult a paediatrician online -->


Last reviewed at:
11 Aug 2022  -  3 min read




Comprehensive Medical Second Opinion.Submit your Case

Related Questions & Answers

Please suggest ayurvedic medication for infection resistant to antibiotics.

Query: Hello doctor, I am a 26 year old male. I was addicted to cold drinks which had been getting me sick (catching a cold) over the past nine years. Doctors treated me with antibiotics such as Amoxicillin, Cloxacillin, Moxifloxacin, Cefpodoxime, Azithromycin, andSporidex which worked very well many ti...  Read Full »

Suffering from osteopenia and osteoarthritis. Taking AcuCal and FreeFlex. Is it safe to take SAM(S Adenosyl Methionine) to enhance mobility?

Query: Dear Doctor,  My mother is 66 years old. She is having Trigeminal Neuralgia and for which she is taking Lyrica 75mg, Tegritol CR 400 and Symbal 30. And other medication details as below: For Cholesetrol -> Storfib -10mg. For BP -> seloken xl 100mg and amlodac 5mg. For Urinary Incontinence -&g...  Read Full »

Please provide some details about the Cromotop inhaler.

Query: Hi doctor, My son, who is 15 years old, suffers from seasonal allergy during spring and autumn months. He has to take Levolin inhaler several times a day and Budecort inhaler as well during the period. Sometimes, he also has to take Montair tablets. I heard about inhaler Cromotop 2 mg, which preve...  Read Full »

Popular Articles Most Popular Articles

Do you have a question on Parents' Anxiety or Rectal Temperature?

Ask a Doctor Online

* guaranteed answer within 4 hours.

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.