Fever in Babies: An Age-Based Temperature Guide

Babies may not come with a manual or guide, but we can give you a guide about what’s normal – and what isn’t – when it comes to temperature and fevers in babies.

It’s one of those things that you may not think about until it’s the middle of the night and you’ve got a tired, cranky baby who won’t settle and feels warm. It’s a stressful experience that most parents will unfortunately confront at some stage, so it might be a good idea to bookmark this guide now and save yourself at least a little of that stress.

What is a high temperature or fever?

First, it’s a good idea to understand what we’re talking about. Although it’s a word that strikes fear into the hearts of many parents, a fever is a natural defence mechanism that our bodies use to fight off infection.

If your baby’s body temperature is consistently above the normal temperature range, this is called a fever. Fevers range from moderate to high.

What’s normal and what isn’t?

Research shows that the answer to this question depends entirely on your baby’s age.

For this reason, it’s important to check the following reference chart (provided by Braun) whenever you’re checking your baby’s temperature. What was considered a moderate fever in your younger baby may now be completely normal and what’s normal for a 3-year-old may be a fever in a 3-month-old.

Checking your baby’s temperature

You’ll usually know when it’s a good idea to check your baby’s temperature. They may actually feel or look warm or have a rash, have a poor appetite or refuse to feed, rub their ears, vomit or just seem generally unwell.

One of the most fuss-free and effective ways to check your baby’s or older children’s temperature, is using an ear thermometer. You may notice that your GP usually prefers this method. Always read the label and follow the directions for use.

Testing in this way is less intrusive than other methods and is an accurate reflection of the body’s core temperature. The ear canal is often considered the best site to measure a fever because of its close proximity to the eardrum, which shares the blood supply of the brain’s temperature control centre.

What should I do?

Remember, fever is the body’s normal body response to infection and is common in babies since their immune system is immature. Not all fevers need to be treated.

However, if your baby is under 3 months of age and develops a fever you should see a doctor immediately. You should also seek medical advice if your baby under 12 months of age has a fever so that the cause can be determined.

For children aged 12 months and older, you may wish to monitor their condition and seek medical attention if your child:

  • has difficulty breathing
  • becomes drowsy
  • refuses to drink, and is weeing less often
  • complains of a stiff neck, persistent headache or light hurting his or her eyes
  • persistently vomits or has frequent bouts of diarrhoea
  • doesn’t improve in 48 hours or starts to look sicker than before
  • is in pain or his or her condition deteriorates
  • is worrying you for any other reason.

Keeping baby comfortable during a fever

Things you can do to make your baby more comfortable during a fever include:

  • Removing any external things that may be elevating the baby’s temperature, such as heavy clothing or blankets
  • Giving Paracetamol in accordance with dosage guidelines (Paracetamol is not to be given to newborn babies)
  • Keeping baby hydrated (by offering extra breastfeeds or clear fluids for babies older than 6 months)

Remember, fever is a normal process but in young children it’s important to monitor and get medical advice to determine the underlying cause.

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