High Temperatures in Children

Published on 19th December 2017

Edited on 19th December 2017

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It can be quite worrying when your child has a high temperature, but it’s important to remember that high temperatures, or fevers, are common in young children. In most cases their fever should clear up without complication and your child will be back to their normal self within a few days.

Learn more about the causes, symptoms and treatment for high temperatures in children with our detailed guide.

What is a high temperature for a child?

In children, a high temperature is considered to be 38°C or above, however this can vary slightly from child to child. For children under five years, a temperature of 37.5°C or above is often considered high. Some children could be ill with a normal temperature, while others might have a higher temperature but appear well.

How to tell if your child has a high temperature

Usually you will be able to tell if your child has a high temperature just by touching their skin. Other signs to look out for which could indicate that your child has a high temperature include:

  • Their skin but feels hotter than usual when you touch their forehead, back or stomach with the back of your hand
  • Your child appears hot and flushed all over
  • Your child is irritable, crying or lethargic
  • A loss of appetite or interest in food and drink

If your child shows any of the fever symptoms listed above, or you suspect they have a high temperature for any other reason, you should always check their temperature with thermometer.

What causes a high temperature in children?

When your child has a high temperature it’s usually a sign that they are fighting an infection or illness. Although it’s worrying to watch your little one suffering, fever is actually the body’s natural response to infection. This is because a raised body temperature makes it more difficult for illness-causing bacteria and viruses to survive.

It’s not always obvious why your child has high temperature, but some of common causes of fever in children include:

  • Cold or flu
  • Ear infections
  • Tonsillitis or a sore throat
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Chicken pox
  • Whooping cough
  • Some young children and babies may experience a raised temperature after having their routine vaccinations. Make sure you keep a close eye on your child after their immunisations and if you are concerned, see your doctor straight away

How to care for a child with a high temperature

Stay hydrated

It’s important for your child to stay hydrated as they recover from a high temperature. You should encourage them to sip plenty of cool water, little and often, throughout the day. Or, if your child is still breastfeeding, offer feeds regularly. Keep an eye out for any signs of dehydration which could include a dry mouth, sunken eyes and for babies, fewer wet nappies.

Offer food regularly

It’s not uncommon for your child to experience a loss of appetite if they have a high temperature. For the first day, your child is ill with a high temperature, only offer food if they want it – you shouldn’t force them to eat if they are not hungry. After this, start to offer food regularly and try to tempt your child with small snacks or more nutritious drinks like milk.

Make your child comfortable

Keep your child at a comfortable temperature when they are fighting off a high temperature. This could mean adjusting the heating, opening a window to let some fresh air in, or covering your child with a light sheet. Avoid bundling them up in too many clothes or blankets as this could make them even hotter.

Encourage rest

When your child is unwell they’ll tire easily and will need more rest than usual. This doesn’t mean they have to spend the whole time in bed; quiet games, stories and lots of cuddles will help keep your child’s spirits, but you should also encourage them to sleep when they need to (even if this means having a quick nap on the sofa). That said, you should never fall asleep with a sick baby on the sofa with you, even if you're both exhausted.

Check on them

For younger children who are unwell and have a high temperature, it’s a good idea to check on them from time to time during the night.

Nurofen for Children

If your child suffering with high temperature, you might want to consider giving them children’s paracetamol or ibuprofen to help bring their temperature down. Nurofen for Children Orange 100mg/5ml Oral Suspension and Nurofen for children Strawberry 100mg/5ml Oral Suspension gets to work in 15 minutes to help relieve fever for up 8 hours. Suitable for babies from 3 months and weighing over 5kg.*

When to see a doctor

You should see your doctor straight away if your child:

  • Shows other signs of being unwell such as bile-stained vomiting
  • Is unable to be woken or does not stay awake
  • Has pale or mottled skin
  • Has a high-pitched cry, or the cry does not sound like their usual cry
  • You are worried about your child – trust your instincts if you are concerned your child is seriously ill

If symptoms persist consult a healthcare professional. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe.

For further advice please speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

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*Nurofen for Children Orange 100mg/5ml Oral Suspension and Nurofen for Children Strawberry 100mg/5ml Oral Suspension contain Ibuprofen. For the reduction of fever and relief of mild to moderate pain. Not suitable for children less than 3 months or less than 5kg weight. Always read the label.