What is a fever?
A fever is simply a high temperature - typically meaning a temperature of 38 degrees centigrade or more. It's a natural response that helps the body to fight infections. Most fevers develop in response to minor viral infections that will get better on their own, such as colds, ear infections and sore throats. Rarely a more serious bacterial infection may be the cause.
Knowing if your child has a fever
Your child may have a fever if their forehead feels hotter than usual, or they have flushed cheeks and feel sweaty or clammy. To be certain use a thermometer to measure their temperature.
How should I care for a feverish child?
Most children can be looked after at home, but if your child has any worrying or unusual symptoms (such as drowsiness or fits), or is under 6 months old, seek medical advice straight away.
1. Let your child rest
- Keep them dressed appropriately for their surroundings.
- Don't under dress or over wrap them.
- Don't fan or sponge them with water to try to cool them down.
- Check on your child regularly even during the night.
- Remember to let the nursery know if your child is ill and keep them at home until they are better.
2. Offer plenty to drink
- If your child is breastfed, breast milk is best.
- Look out for signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth, sunken eyes, no tears when they cry, sunken fontanelle (soft spot on a baby's head), or a poor overall appearance.
- If your child seems dehydrated, get them to drink more and consider getting medical advice.
3. Consider giving ibuprofen or paracetamol
- If your child is content (e.g. they are playing and attentive), they don't need any medicine.
- However if your child is over 3 months and is distressed or unwell you can consider giving ibuprofen or paracetamol to reduce their temperature.
- Both medicines are effective. A liquid ibuprofen starts to relieve a fever in just 15 minutes and lasts up to 8 hours.
- You shouldn't give both medicines together, but if the first one doesn't reduce your child's fever you can consider swapping to the other.
4. Know when to get help
- If your child develops a non-blanching rash (one that doesn't fade when you press a glass against it) you need to get medical help straight away.
- You should also seek medical advice if your child has a fit, if they get worse, if you are worried or you cannot look after your child, or if their fever lasts longer than 5 days.