How do I bring my baby's fever down?
A baby with a fever always makes parents anxious, but fever is actually a defense mechanism of the body. It prepares the body to fight infection. Most fevers do not need antibiotic therapy and may resolve on their own in five to seven days. There are a few things a parent may try to manage the child’s fever and make them feel more comfortable
- Ensure they stay properly hydrated by consistently offering them water or juice to increase their fluid intake and avoid dehydration. If the baby is breastfed or bottle-fed, the most appropriate fluid is breast milk or formula. Babies over six months of age can be offered cooled, pre-boiled water to keep them hydrated.
- Dress them in light clothing. They should not be too hot or too cold. Add another layer if the child begins to shiver. A parent can make their child feel more comfortable by loosening their clothing and removing any overlying blankets. Move them to a cooler room and switch on the fan.
- Avoid bathing or showering your child in cold water. Use a sponge or washcloth soaked in lukewarm water instead.
- Use tepid sponging to bring down the child’s fever. This means that parents need to place moist towels over the forehead, sides of the neck, under the armpits and over the groin. Change the towels frequently if the temperature exceeds 103.1°F. It is advisable to use tap water (not ice water) when doing tepid sponging.
- Encourage the child to rest as much as they want, preferably in a cool environment.
- Children with a fever may not necessarily feel hungry, so it is not necessary to force them to eat. Examples of foods and beverages to give them when they don’t feel well include water, milk, pieces of soft fruit (such as watermelon and papaya) or diluted fruit juice. Older children may prefer flavored jelly, soups, ice-cream or frozen popsicles.
- Avoid outdoors or crowded places when the baby has a fever.
- If the child is suffering from pain or discomfort because of their fever, an over-the-counter medication containing acetaminophen can help to reduce it. It can be a liquid medicine, suppositories or chewable tablets. The correct dosage depends on the child’s age and body weight. Always make sure to follow the instructions on the product label. Do not give ibuprofen to babies under three months old and never give aspirin to children.
- Fever charting: This will help you to know the fever pattern and adjust the medicine dose accordingly. Take a paper and make a note of what time of the day the fever peaks and when it goes down. Use a digital thermometer for this purpose.
When should I seek immediate care?
A parent should seek immediate care when a child has the following signs and symptoms
- When the child's temperature reaches 105°F
- If the child has a dry mouth, cracked lips or cries without tears
- The baby has a history of convulsions
- If the baby has a dry diaper for at least eight hours or they are urinating less than usual
- If the child is less alert, less active or is acting differently than they usually do
- If the child has a new seizure or has abnormal movements of the face, arms or legs
- If the child is drooling and not able to swallow
- If the child has a stiff neck, severe headache, confusion or is difficult to wake
- If the child has a fever for longer than five days
- If the child is crying or irritable and cannot be soothed
- The baby appears ill, drowsy or unresponsive
- The baby has difficulty breathing
- The baby has a rash that doesn’t fade easily
What should you know about fever?
- You may not know the cause of the fever until other symptoms develop. This may take 24 hours.
- For infants older than three months old, most fevers are good for sick children. They help the body fight infection.
- Use the ranges below to help put your child's level of fever into perspective
- Low-grade fever, 100 to 102°F: Helpful and in the good range.
- Average fever, 102 to 104°F: Helpful and treat this with sponge baths. and acetaminophen
- High fever, over 104°F: Causes discomfort, but harmless. Always treat.
- Extremely high fever, over 106°F: Important to bring it down. Rare to go this high.
- Dangerous fever, over 108°F: Fever itself can be harmful.