Fever in Babies: When to Call the Doctor
Parenting & Children's Health

Fever in Babies: When to Call the Doctor

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

11 Jul 2019  -  2 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 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:

  • they are warmer than usual.
  • they are sweaty and flushed.
  • they refuse to feed and are unable to sleep.

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 -->https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/paediatrician

Last reviewed at:
11 Jul 2019  -  2 min read



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