Infant fevers 101

Healthcare   |   Age: 5 months 1 week


Infant fevers 101

Just like yours, your baby’s temperature changes during different parts of the day, and for different reasons. So while 98.6 degrees F (37 C) is thought to be the average temperature, there’s a range of temperatures that are considered to be perfectly healthy for your baby - between 97 and 100.3 degrees F (36.1-38 C) is generally considered to be perfectly safe. Fevers are one of the first warning signs when your baby comes down with an illness, and one of the signs that can cause the most stress, but they’re also deceptive - higher fevers don’t always mean more serious illnesses, and even more serious illnesses can only have fairly mild fevers to go with them. That doesn’t mean fevers aren’t important to keep an eye on, though - in fact, depending on the age of your child, there are certain temperatures where the fever alone is a good reason to call the doctor. Even when fevers aren’t high enough to be a cause for concern, it’s important to keep an eye on the symptoms that come with them to start to figure out how serious an illness is.

What to do

If a fever is low enough that it’s not necessary to call your healthcare provider right away, and your child isn’t showing other symptoms that are causes for concern, there are ways you can fight her fever at home. First, don’t bundle her up, since this can raise her temperature even higher. Just like when you have a fever, your baby should get lots of fluids to stay hydrated, but unlike when you’re sick, those fluids shouldn’t be water unless she is already drinking water regularly. If your baby is still getting most of her nutrients from formula or breast milk, and especially if she is 6 months old or younger, her kidneys are still developing, and water could interfere with her balance of electrolytes. Another way to cool your baby down a little is to give her a lukewarm bath, or sponge bath, though not a cold one, since cold could make your baby shiver to warm her, and heat her right back up again.

When to get help

What can your baby take?

Fever reducers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen don't make an illness go away, and are not always necessary if your child has a fever. In fact, studies have shown that in some cases, fevers can actually help to fight off infection. However, your pediatrician may recommend you give your baby a fever reducer if her fever is making her uncomfortable, sapping her energy, or interfering with her sleep or appetite. Acetaminophen is the only fever reducer that is FDA approved for children 6 months old or younger, so acetaminophen products, like Tylenol, might be recommended. However, children under 3 months shouldn't take fever reducers, and aspirin should never be given to children.

Fever reducers are often unnecessary for low-grade fevers. If your baby is uncomfortable or unhappy over a fever though, fever reducers can make her feel better long enough to help her get hydrated or get some rest, both of which will help her fight whatever illness she is dealing with. Dosing for baby fever reducers is measured by weight, not age, and should be measured out with the measuring cup or spoon that comes with the medicine, as kitchen measuring spoons can vary in size, and give an inexact dose.

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