Your child’s average body temperature is about 37°C. If your child’s temperature is higher than 38°C for 24 hours or more, he/she probably has a fever. A fever is a sign of illness.
Fever is not an illness in itself, but is the sign of an illness. Children get fevers for all kinds of reasons. Most fevers, and the illnesses that cause them, last only a few days. But sometimes a fever will last much longer, and might be the sign of an underlying chronic or long-term illness or disease.
Infections are by far the most common cause of fever in children. Most of these are caused by viruses, which are responsible for colds, upper respiratory infections, and the common infectious diseases of childhood, such as chickenpox. These infections don’t last long and usually don’t need to be treated.
In general, fever is nature’s response to infection, and can actually help the body fight infection.
Some infections are caused by bacteria, and need treatment with antibiotics. These include certain ear and throat infections.
When to see your doctor
Seek medical attention if your child:
Looks sicker than before (more pale, lethargic and weak)
Has trouble breathing
Refuses to drink, and is weeing less often (if your baby has fewer than half the usual number of wet nappies, see a doctor)
Complains of a stiff neck, persistent headache or light hurting his eyes
Vomits persistently, or has frequent bouts of diarrhea
Doesn’t improve in 48 hours
Is aged less than 12 months and has a fever
Has a fever above 40°C
Is causing you to worry for any other reason.
A fever will run its course regardless of treatment. Fever is one of the ways the body fights infection. Your child’s temperature will return too normal when the infection or other cause of the fever has completely gone.
In children under 12 months, fever might be a sign of a more significant illness, and you do need to seek medical advice.
Babies under three months of age who develop a fever must be seen by a doctor immediately - because it’s harder to tell if they have a serious underlying illness
In older children, treat the fever only if you feel it’s making your child uncomfortable, irritable or so lethargic she’s not drinking enough fluids.
Generally, children handle fever well. If your child has a fever, here are some ways that you can make him/her more comfortable:
1. Dress him/her in light clothing.
2. Give him/her small quantities of clear fluids such as water, weak tea or diluted soda water, lemonade or juice to drink. (Lemonade and juice are too strong for a child with gastroenteritis or diarrhoea – they must be diluted.) Do this often. If your child isn’t hungry, that’s OK. The most important thing is to make sure he’s drinking enough to avoid dehydration.
3. Give liquid paracetamol in the correct and recommended dose. Exceeding the recommended dose can cause liver damage. It’s important not to give fever-lowering medication too often or for prolonged periods, because it can cause side effects.
4. Cool baths, sponging and fans can actually make your child more uncomfortable.
Our Service’s Policy regarding fevers:
If a child in our care registers a temperature higher than 38°C, we will contact you immediately, ask that you collect your child and administer paracetamol if permission is given to do so.
Please remember that we do not allow children to attend the service within a 24-hour period who have had paracetamol. This is to limit cross infection of any underlying illness and ensure that the child is given adequate rest and care that is not possible in our environment.
For more information visit: www.raisingchildren.net.au