Caring for an infant is a big responsibility. Among other challenges, parents and caregivers must always be vigilant to keep their baby safe. Caring for a healthy baby can be demanding enough but caring for a sick baby is even more so. Among other concerns, new parents tend to worry that their baby may be running a fever. The first sign most parents notice is an overly warm forehead.
Fever is not an illness in itself. Rather, it may be a sign of underlying disease. Keep in mind that fever is often a natural response to infection, so fever may be an indication that your baby is combatting an infection. A higher temperature helps the body combat many disease-causing germs. Pediatricians now view fever as beneficial in most instances, as it represents the body’s natural effort to eliminate disease-causing infections.
What Are the Signs of Fever in Babies?
A baby that feels too warm or hot to the touch may have a fever. An elevated thermometer reading is the best way to determine if a fever is significant enough to warrant a doctor’s attention. Other signs may include unusual fussiness, uncharacteristic listlessness, refusing feedings, or sleep disruptions. Not all fevers are serious, but the higher the temperature, the greater the cause for concern, and the more important it becomes that you seek medical help.
Note that fever may be a temporary response to a recent vaccination. An overheated baby who has been dressed too warmly, or who has become too hot while outdoors, may also appear to have a fever. Removing layers or allowing your baby to cool off indoors may help return baby’s temperature to normal in these instances.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using only a digital thermometer on babies. Take your baby’s temperature under the arm, on the temple, orally (by mouth), or rectally. The latter is best for small infants, as rectal temperature probes provide the most accurate readings, and infants may not allow oral probe placement for long enough to get a good reading.
Normal body temperatures for babies range from 97° F to 100.3° F. Note that it is normal for body temperatures to rise and fall somewhat throughout the day and night. But a persistent higher-than-normal temperature probably indicates fever. A rectal thermometer reading of 100.4° F or higher is considered fever by a majority of pediatricians.
When Should You Worry About a Baby’s Fever?
- If your baby is 3 months old or younger, call your pediatrician; ask if a trip to the ER is needed
- If your baby becomes lethargic or unresponsive
- If the fever persists for 24 hours or longer
- If the temperature is exceptionally high
- A fever of 104°F or higher, for example, is cause for concern
- If your baby struggles to breathe or has stopped feeding
- If your baby has a seizure or convulsion
- If your baby loses interest in play
- If signs of dehydration develop:
- few or no wet diapers
- dry mouth
- no tears upon crying
- sunken soft spot on the top of the head
How Do You Break a Baby’s Fever?
Ensure that your baby remains adequately hydrated. Depending on baby’s age, he or she should be breastfed, or given plenty of formula, electrolyte water, or plain water in order to avoid dehydration. Try dressing your baby in thin, loose layers, or give your baby a lukewarm bath.
If recommended by a doctor, it may be appropriate to give baby a fever-reducing over-the-counter medication such as acetamenophen or ibuprofen. Never give aspirin or aspirin-containing medicines to young children, due to the risk of a rare, potentially serious condition called Reyes syndrome. Reyes syndrome is linked to aspirin use among children. Do not give fever reducers to infants under the age of 6 months, without a specific recommendation from a provider to do so.
When to Go to Urgent Care or the Emergency Room for a Baby’s Fever
Given that it is better to be safe than sorry, there is no wrong time to bring your baby in to be seen by a provider at PhysicianOne Urgent Care. While the occasional mild fever is not uncommon among babies, when it occurs in infants younger than 3 months old, it is important to seek medical attention promptly to rule out a potentially dangerous infection. Especially high temperatures are always alarming. High fever warrants immediate, emergency medical attention.
If your baby experiences an alarming fever, which happens to strike while your pediatrician is unavailable, PhysicianOne Urgent Care is here 7 days per week. Contact us at 1.855.349.2828, or stop in today for a convenient, walk-in visit. If you’re looking to save time, find a location near you and check in online today!