I know that fever is a sign of healthiness, as the body is trying to fight the bacteria or infection itself. But we have always struggled with one question our entire life, i.e. how high is too high of a temperature in babies? No matter how much you appreciate a fever as a sign of a healthy body, you still get worrisome after seeing those flushed cheeks, hot body, and chills. To help all the other parents in figuring out when to take their baby to the hospital and when to not? I’m going, to sum up, all my findings and directions that my doctor laced me with. I hope with this information you will know what to do, next time your baby gets a temperature.
Temperature is when a body’s internal “thermostat” raises the temperature of the body beyond its normal level. Our bodies have a thermostat in the part of the brain known as the hypothalamus. This part of the brain is responsible for regulating the temperature of the body which should be 98.6°F/37°C. When the temperature of the body becomes lower or higher our brain sends a message to the body to maintain the temperature. The hypothalamus sometimes resets the temperature of the body to a higher temperature as a response to infection or illness. Most of the adults have different body temperatures throughout the day, lower during day time, and higher during the evening. This body temperature also varies during playing and exercising. Fever itself is not at all harmful for your baby, in fact, it’s a sign of a healthy mind and body. Fevers are inevitable in babies because that is how their body responds to an occasional infection. For adults, a few degrees rise in the body temperature does not mean serious infection, but in babies and toddlers, a slight increase can mean a serious infection. The reason why our bodies usually heat up as a response to external infections is, that a warmer body is a less comfortable place for those viruses and bacteria.
What causes a fever-like temperature?
One thing that parents need to keep in mind is that fever itself is not an illness, but a sign of another problem. Let’s discuss the factors responsible for fever in babies.
Most of the temperatures in your baby are due to infection and other illnesses. By stimulating a natural defense mechanism is how your little baby’s body fights against those infections.
Sometimes your baby might experience a rise in temperature due to overdressing in a hot season or environment. Their bodies are unable to naturally regulate their body temperature due to their immature internal systems. But as fever in a baby is mostly a symptom of something serious, it is advised by pediatricians to get your baby checked even if her temperature is high due to overdressing.
Your baby is likely to have a mild fever after vaccination as their body is trying to adjust to the new addition in the body. Sometimes teething can also raise the body temperature of your little one. But if your little one’s temperature is higher than 100°F (37.8°C) then there must be some other reason.
How to check your baby’s temperature?
There are several thermometers that you can use to check your little one’s temperature. A digital thermometer is, however, the most accurate and fastest among them all, and is also recommended by pediatricians. Your baby only has a fever if her body temperature is above or lower than these levels:
- 100°F (37.8°C) by measuring orally (through the mouth)
- 100.4°F (38°C) by measuring rectally (through the bottom)
- 99°F (37.2°C) by measuring axillary (through underarm)
For newborns under 3 months, a digital thermometer is used to check the body temperature accurately and rectally. There are two ways to take a rectal temperature.
In the face-down method, place a blanket over your lap and lay your baby over it facing downwards. Use petroleum jelly to insert the thermometer in the bottom, and wait for 3 minutes to let the temperature register.
Face up method
In the face-up method. Lay your baby facing upwards on a firm surface. Hold their legs up such that their knees are towards their chest. Then insert the thermometer and wait for 3 minutes to get the reading.
Another way to get the temperature reading is by inserting a digital thermometer under the armpit. This is not very accurate but will give you an idea if your baby is having a fever or not.
Some babies also tend to breathe faster during temperatures. Call your pediatricians if your baby is having difficulty in breathing or has a pretty high heart rate. If your baby is still breathing faster or has a high heart rate, even after the temperature has gotten better than talk to your doctor.
Fever strips and pacifier thermometer are not very accurate, thus are not recommended by the doctors. Glass thermometers are also prohibited to be used for babies, the mercury inside can poison your baby if gets in contact.
How to know if the fever is a sign of something serious?
In healthy babies, not all fevers are serious and need a checkup. Though high fevers, on the other hand, can make the problem worse if remain untreated. Pediatricians decide the severity of a fever through the baby’s body temperature and overall health condition.
For babies, having a temperature less than 102°F (38.9°C) no medicine is required unless they are feeling uneasy. But if a newborn has a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, then call your doctor or get into an emergency instantly. Because even a little change of temperature in newborns can be an indication of something very serious.
For babies, ranging from 3 months to 3 years old, call a doctor to ask if a checkup is required.
Your baby might not have anything severe if:
- She is still playing with her toys
- She is eating and drinking normally
- Is active and responsive
- Has a normal complexion
- Looks well when her temperature comes down
If your baby is not eating normally then that is okay as well, because in fever appetite usually lessens. There is nothing to worry about if your baby is drinking and urinating normally.
When to see your pediatrician?
Some of the babies may develop a fever due to a lack of vaccination. If your baby has a high fever and has not been vaccinated yet, then call your pediatrician immediately. Excessive diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and rash along with fever are also symbols of some serious infection and require medical help.
Get your baby emergency help if…
- She is having trouble breathing
- Has severe abdominal pain
- Is having seizure
- Have apparent problems like swelling or trouble swallowing
|Age||When to see the pediatrician|
|Newborn – 3 months||100.4 degrees or higher|
|3 months -3 years||102 degrees or higher|
|3 years and older||103 degrees or higher|
|Any age||102 degrees or higher for more than 2 days|
Your pediatrician is going to ask you questions, so be prepared for questions like:
- How high the temperature is?
- When did you last check the temperature?
- How many days has it been?
- What other symptoms you’re seeing?
- What is the medical history of your baby?
- What changes have you noticed in your baby’s feeding and bowel movement?
- Did your baby come in contact with anyone infectious in the family?
No fever but still sick?
If your baby is showing no fever but still looks sick then monitor his symptoms, and temperature to know if the sickness is worsening. Keep giving your baby fluids, comfort foods, and love.
In case your baby starts experiencing severe symptoms or fever call your doctor and seek immediate help.
What preventive measures can you take, to keep your baby safe from fever?
To prevent your baby from infectious diseases and colds do the following:
- Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after every meal, toilet, and touching animals.
- Carry hand sanitizer during outdoor activities.
- Make sure to cover your mouth during sneezing and coughing to avoid spreading the germs.
- Do not share personal items like water bottles, cups, and utensils with your baby.
The temperature, in general, is not a threat to children, but to babies’ high temperature could be the symptom of something serious like pneumonia. If your baby is weak or vomiting during fever or has been suffering from it for more than 3 days, then check with your pediatrician.
If the temperature is not bothering your baby in any serious way then be patient for it will disappear on its own.