When Should You Worry About a Baby's Fever?

Reviewed on 6/18/2021
when is fever too high in a baby
When is a fever too high in a baby? Learn when to call a doctor or seek emergency medical help

Fevers can be scary for many parents, especially if you are a first-time parent. How high is too high? Should you call a doctor right away?

All babies will eventually get a fever at some point, no matter how well you take care of them. It’s important to know what to do when that happens. Start with measuring your baby’s temperature using a thermometer. Although the most accurate is a rectal digital thermometer, you can use another device if you feel uncomfortable.

When to contact your baby's pediatrician

Fever is defined as a temperature over 100.4  degrees F. Normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees F, although this varies throughout the day and can differ by age and activity levels.

Contact your pediatrician if your baby is:

  • Under 3 months old and has any kind of fever
  • 3-6 months old and has a temperature up to 102 degrees F
  • 6-24 months old and has a temperature higher than 102 degrees F for more than one day

You should also call your doctor if your baby displays the following symptoms: 

  • Refuses several feedings in a row
  • Unusually sleepy or is hard to awaken from sleep
  • Increased crankiness
  • Belly button or genital area suddenly becomes red, oozes fluid, or bleeds
  • Has a severe cough or diarrhea
  • Vomiting (occasional spit up is normal, but projectile vomit 8 hours after feeding is not)
  • Signs of dehydration, such as:
    • Fewer tears
    • Dry mouth
    • Significantly fewer wet diapers
    • Sunken soft spot
  • Fewer bowel movements than normal or cries when having bowel movements
  • Has a cold that is accompanied by:
  • Rashes develop
  • One or both eyes are red or have discharge

When to seek emergency medical help

Some conditions require emergency medical help:

  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Seizures or abnormal body movements
  • Accidental ingestion of large doses of medications or poison
  • Worsening of difficulty breathing
  • Unconsciousness
  • Severe persistent pain

All parents should learn basic first aid, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR. Note down all emergency phone numbers and addresses and keep them handy.

How to manage your baby’s fever at home

If your baby’s fever is mild, you can try the following steps to bring the fever down:

  • Wet sponge your baby’s entire body.
  • Ensure that your baby drinks enough fluids or breastmilk.
  • Keep your baby in a well-ventilated environment, preferably a cool one.
  • Dress your baby in light, breathable clothes.
  • Give your baby fever medication, such as acetaminophen, in consultation with your doctor.

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References
Mayo Clinic. Sick Baby? When to Seek Medical Attention. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/healthy-baby/art-20047793

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