When your child comes home, it is one of the most perfect days that you will ever experience in your life. They are a precious little bundle of joy that you want to protect from any kind of harm.
However, it is inevitable that they will get sick or develop a fever which, as a new parent, can be scary at first. If you have a baby on the way, or a newborn at home, we wanted to give you some help on what to look for, what might cause a fever in your little one and some of the best ways to help them feel better.
So let’s get started.
What is a fever for your baby?
When your baby has a fever, it can be a very stressful situation for any first-time parent. If your little one has a fever, it might indicate that they could have contracted an infection from germs in the area or from contact with other babies.
Fevers can occur when a normally common illness such as a cold, sore throat, or ear infection may be affecting them. A healthy baby’s body temperature averages 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit but if they are running a mild fever, their temp can start at 100.4 degrees. A high fever can start at 102.2 degrees. If your child has a temp approaching this, you will want to contact their doctor immediately. While it is rare, some fevers that your child can come down with can be extremely dangerous or even fatal.
For new parents, these facts can be scary and put them in a state where any rise in their little one’s temperature will lead to them rushing to the pediatrician’s office. While you’re being a good parent by making sure that your child is ok, your pediatrician is likely to give you instructions and guidelines to look out for so you aren’t there every 2 weeks.
How can I tell if my baby has a fever?
At first, it can be extremely frustrating that your child can’t communicate with you in a way that you can understand. Simply put, they are too young at this point to let you know when they don’t feel good or that they feel warm. Because it’s the only option they have, their moods and behavior might change as a reflection of how they feel.
Knowing how to pick up on these clues that your child is giving you can be very beneficial when it comes time to treat their fever and help them feel better. A sign that your little one might be coming down with a fever is that your baby may be fussier than normal and while you hold them, they may not look right at you.
Now, just because your baby is overly fussy doesn’t immediately mean that they have a fever. There can be other signs that you will want to learn about and pay attention to if you feel that your child is developing a fever:
- Baby feels warm
Your little one should never feel cold or too warm on any normal day. If you find that they feel a bit warmer than usual, you may want to keep a keen eye on the higher body temperature, If they experience a significant change in body temperature, it could mean that they are developing a fever and may need to go to the doctor.
- A change in behavior
When your little one has a fever, like you it can put them in a bad mood. If you begin to notice that the temperament that they usually have is a bit off lately or they seem crankier and fussier than usual, then it could be a sign that they might have a fever.
- They aren’t eating
Normally, babies will take a bottle or breast whenever they are hungry without an issue. But if they start to refuse or don’t eat as much as they might usually, it could be a sign that they might be developing a fever and the rise in their temperature could be garnering that reaction.
- They aren’t sleeping
After a while, when your baby sleeps, they will develop a routine or sleeping schedule. This schedule can help parents plan their child’s next feeding or when they might need a diaper change in the middle of the night. However. If they start to sleep more or sleep less than normal, this could be a sign that they may be developing a fever.
While these can be some of the more obvious symptoms that your little one may have a fever, others such as ear pain, coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea can all be signs that your baby may have a fever.
How to take their temperature
If you feel like your baby is developing a fever, confirming it can make helping them not only get better but feel better much easier. On the market today, there can be many high tech gadgets that are designed to help you get an accurate reading of your baby’s temperature. While these are all great options, depending on the age of your child, the best way to take their temperature is rectal, as many doctors recommend.
The best rectal thermometers will come with a wide base and a flexible tip. When you take their temperature, putting something in their rectum can make them uncomfortable and want to move around. Using a digital thermometer with a flexible tip can help get an accurate reading without the possibility of the thermometer breaking while in use.
Lay your child down on their changing table, apply a tiny amount of petroleum jelly on the tip of the thermometer to help the insertion go smoothly. Gently insert the thermometer about a half an inch into your little one’s rectum until it beeps. Once it beeps, slowly remove the thermometer and look at the reading.
While the reading you may get from a rectal thermometer will be between 97.9 and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit if they have a normal temperature, checking their temperature in different areas can produce different readings.
While it is not recommended for a newborn, checking their temperature by placing a thermometer in their mouth should produce a reading between 95.9 and 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit when normal. Using their armpit should produce the same temperature if your little one doesn’t have a fever.
Many new thermometers on the market are designed to give a temperature reading after inserting the tip into your child’s ear. When you use this type of thermometer, if they have a normal temperature, you should see a reading between 96.4 and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
What Causes Your Little one to Have a Fever?
A frequent question that a parent may have when their child has a fever is how exactly they came down with one in the first place?
It can definitely seem that when your child has a fever, it can come out of nowhere, but, in actuality, the cause of your baby’s fever can be caused by some likely suspects. However many doctors feel that if your baby has a fever, its an indication that there is something else affecting them and that they need to go see their doctor.
There can be a few common causes of a fever in your child. Let’s look at the different reasons that can cause a fever:
Colds, flu, and sore throats can be very frequent visitors to your child’s daycare and can be some of the most frequent conditions that may cause a fever. Symptoms to look out for when it comes to a viral infection are a runny nose, wheezing, coughing, and loose stool.
A bacterial infection or stomach bug can easily cause a fever in your child to pop up. These bacteria can cause your little one to have an unexplained fever spike as well as cases of strep throat.
Like you, your child can be susceptible to a head cold that hits them out of the blue. This congestion can raise their temperature, and can also cause their fever to last longer than it might with other infections.
In many states, parents are required to have certain vaccines administered in order for their child to attend school or daycare. Sometimes, these vaccines can cause a fever to rise in your child as their immune system processes the vaccine.
Within your child’s first three months, a fever can be a very dangerous situation and may have serious consequences. A fever in a newborn may be caused by sepsis, which is a bacterial infection that infects their bloodstream. If this is left untreated, it can be fatal for a baby.
Meningitis can be a very serious infection that your child can come down with. A bacterial infection that can infect the spinal cord and the brain can be fatal. Meningitis can lead to a high fever, stiff neck, and acute body pain. Meningitis is not something that should be left untreated. It can lead to permanent brain damage for your child.
Every parent wants to keep their child warm, especially during the cold winter months. Sometimes though, wearing warm clothes or even spending too much time in the sun during the summer can cause your little one to come down with a fever.
Fevers and brain damage
When it comes to the dangers of your child coming down with a fever, there are a lot of myths and truths out there about what effect a fever can have on your child’s body. One of the biggest is that a fever above 104 degrees Fahrenheit will cause brain damage to their child. This is not true thankfully.
A fever with an infection will not cause brain damage to your little one. However, while it is possible that a fever high enough may cause brain damage to your little one, the odds of that happening are pretty rare. While it’s not uncommon for a sick child to have a temperature that might reach 104 or 105 degrees Fahrenheit, any type of brain damage may occur once their temperature reached 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature doesn’t happen very often. Some scenarios where they may reach that temperature might be if they had been locked in a hot car or excessively overdressed while they already have a fever.
Generally, a fever by itself won’t cause any harm. This includes febrile seizures that some children can have in response to a sudden spike in their body temperature are harmless a good majority of the time. Although rare, a child can inhale their saliva or vomit during one of these seizures and develop aspiration pneumonia, or they might injure themselves bumping against a hard surface.
While it’s easier said than done, try not to panic if your child has a fever. Try to remind yourself that the fever that they have is a sign that their immune system is working correctly. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t call their doctor, but it’s more than likely that they will be fine.
A fever is the body’s way of fighting an infection. It is a natural immune response. In other words, their immune system is doing the job it was designed to do.
How can I help them feel more comfortable?
Our first instinct when our child is sick is to do anything and everything that we can in order to help them feel better. It’s a natural instinct that any parent has but what exactly can we do to help them feel more comfortable while they feel terrible during a fever?
If your child’s fever isn’t high enough to warrant a visit to the doctor’s office or to the emergency room, you may be able to give them a small dose of either acetaminophen or ibuprofen. You will want to consult their doctor first before doing either though so that you know what the correct dosage to give your child is. This can help to reduce their fever, but do not give them aspirin at all if they have a fever.
A lukewarm bath can help bring their fever down. The cooler temperature of the water, in comparison with their body temperature, can help to regulate their temperature and may bring it down a little bit. You want to make sure that the water doesn’t get too cold and be sure that you take him or her out of the tub if they start to shiver.
Depending on the time of year, you may want to dress your child in lighter clothing and use a sheet instead of a blanket. If its the winter, dressing them in lighter pj’s or covering them with a sheet may let some of that excess heat out instead of keeping it trapped under a heavy blanket and thick pajamas.
With their lighter clothing, you’ll want to make sure that their room is comfortable to rest in as well. A room that’s too hot or too cold could cause your child’s fever to spike. Keeping the room between 70 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit should be able to provide them with a comfortable environment so that they can get some rest. Avoid running the heater non-stop in the winter or an air conditioner at all during the summer months as these can cause them to shiver and their temperature to go up.
It’s a good idea to keep your child hydrated. If they still are, breastfeed or give them formula often to keep them hydrated. An oral rehydration drink, such as Pedialyte, is a good option to use. If they are weaned off the bottle, encourage them to drink water as a means of staying hydrated. Avoid sugary drinks like soda and juice as the amount of sugar in these drinks can actually dehydrate them instead.
While it’s likely that if your little one won’t feel like eating much if they have a fever, it may be beneficial to how they fight off the infection. According to Dutch scientists, fasting during a fever can stimulate the response that can fight off the infection that caused the fever. While this is by no means permission to abide by the old “starve a fever, feed a cold” proverb, if they aren’t hungry because they don’t feel good, that’s ok. If they are hungry even though they might not be feeling well, be sure to feed your child.
When should I call the doctor?
Even though you want to do everything you can to help your child feel better when they have a fever, sometimes, depending on the situation and the severity of the fever, a visit to the doctor or even the hospital may be needed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends contacting your child’s doctor under the following conditions:
Under 3 months
If your child is 3 months old or younger, even if there are no other symptoms present, if your child has a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, they need to see their doctor right away. If this happens after office hours or on the weekend, you should take your child to an emergency room.
Because their new immune system only has a limited development, they are likely not able to fight off an illness that could cause a fever that high. You know that while your child can cry, they cannot properly articulate that they really don’t feel good. With a fever that high, they can be prone to contracting more serious infections such as kidney infections, bloodstream infections, and even pneumonia.
3 to 6 months old
While your child’s immune system is getting a little bit stronger, it’s nowhere near where it will be able to get to as they get older. If they have a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, even without an obvious source of an infection or cause of the fever, your child should see their doctor to see if there is a more serious issue or they can help reduce the fever.
Regardless of your child’s age, there are symptoms that if you see in your child when they have a fever, you should take them to their doctor or the hospital right away.
- A fever and sore throat that lasts for more than 24 to 48 hours
- If you see obvious signs of dehydration. Examples include dry mouth, a sunken soft spot, or if they have fewer wet diapers
- A fever and they experience pain when urinating.
- They are lethargic, has a rash, doesn’t want to eat, or is having trouble breathing.
- They have a febrile seizure
- If they recently came home from a trip overseas and have a fever
Now there are situations where seeking medical attention is not something that you can wait to do. If your child has one of these symptoms, stop reading and go now:
- As discussed previously, if your child is under 3 months old and they have a fever
- A fever of 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
- A fever and obvious breathing difficulties
- If they have a fever and they are having trouble swallowing. Trouble to the point where they are drooling because they are unable to swallow their own saliva.
- If they have a fever and they are still lethargic or listless even after taking fever-reducing medicine.
- If they have a fever along with a headache, stiff neck, or purplish patches or tiny red spots on their skin
- Fever and severe pain
- A febrile seizure that lasts for more than 15 minutes
- If they have trouble breathing after a febrile seizure.
- If their immune system is compromised and they contract a fever
As you can see, this is a list of symptoms that should not be taken lightly at all. Again, if your child is having any of these symptoms, please stop reading and go now.
While there can be a lot of information out there, some factual and some myths, regarding your child having a fever, the most important thing you can do is not freak out. Now, we know that for first-time parents, this may be difficult.
To make it an easier process, not only for yourself but your child as well, be prepared. Speak to your child’s pediatrician. Ask questions and know the right information beforehand and before long, both you and they will feel better.