What is a fever?
A fever is usually considered to be a temperature of 38°C or above and is a sign your child is fighting off an infection.2-4 The rise in temperature helps your child’s immune system to get rid of the infection, by making it difficult for viruses and bacteria to survive.4
Children’s temperatures can also rise after a vaccination or if they overheat because of excess bedding or clothing.5 Close monitoring is the best tactic – that way you’ll know if their temperature rise is a just due to your child wearing too many clothes or if there is something more serious going on.3,5
What are the typical signs of fever?
You can generally tell your child has a fever by touching their forehead, back or tummy or taking their temperature with a thermometer.3 However, a temperature isn’t the only sign.
If a child has fever, they may also:3
- Feel sweaty and clammy
- Have flushed cheeks.
In around 5% of children under 6 years of age, a high temperature can also cause a seizure – known as a febrile convulsion – where their body may become stiff and their arms and legs jerk and twitch.6 They might also lose consciousness, vomit or foam at the mouth, roll back their eyes or turn blue.6 Febrile convulsions can be a frightening experience, however they usually only last a few minutes and are not usually serious.6 You should go to A&E once the convulsion has ended just to get your child checked out.6
If your child’s febrile convulsion lasts longer than 5 minutes, or your child has another seizure soon after, or they are having trouble breathing, then call an ambulance for urgent help.6
MORE ADVICE ABOUT FEVER
When should I be concerned about fever?
Although fever doesn’t always indicate a serious illness, you should always see your doctor urgently if:3
- Your baby is under 3 months of age and has a fever of 37.5 or more, or you think they have a fever
- Is aged 3-6 months old a has a fever of 37.5 or more
- They also have a rash
- Their fever has lasted for more than 5 days, or you can’t bring it down with fever-reducing medicines, such as ibuprofen
- They are dehydrated – signs to watch out for are if your baby has sunken eyes, no tears when they are crying or their nappies are not very wet
- You’re worried because they’ve lost their appetite or they’re not their usual self.
Get emergency help if your child has any of the following as it could be a symptom of serious condition:3
- You can’t get their fever under control
- They have a stiff neck
- They are bothered by light
- They have a rash that doesn’t fade when a glass is pressed against it
- Their skin is pale, blotchy or blue/grey in colour
- They have unusually cold hands and feet
- They have a fit for the first time
- They are drowsy and hard to wake-up
- The soft spot on their head (the fontanelle) is bulging outwards
- They have trouble breathing and they are sucking their stomach in under their ribs
- Their cry is not normal and is weak and high-pitched
- They have persistent vomiting
- They are grunting
- They are a baby with very fast breathing.
How to ease a fever
You will naturally want to make comfort a priority when your child has a fever, and avoiding dehydration is important.5 Throughout the day, and during any restless periods at night, give your child small amounts of a clear fluid, such as water, or baby milk.3,5
You may also want to try an over-the-counter fever reliever designed specifically for children. Nurofen for Children contains ibuprofen, which relieves pain and can help reduce fever for up to eight hours in children over 3 months.7