Young mother with her baby at a paediatrician office

Your Guide to Baby Fever

How can you tell the difference between a baby fever and a normal baby temperature? Learn how to assess fever in babies—and how to manage.

Baby fever: what to look for and what to do

If your baby is under three months old and is running a fever, inform your child’s paediatrician.

If you think your baby may have a fever, the first thing to remember is don’t panic. It’s not uncommon for babies to have an elevated temperature; it’s a normal response to many illnesses and will help your little one fight off infection.

Still, you’ll want to understand what may be causing your baby’s fever, how to treat it and when to call the doctor.

Father holding his new born baby in his arms in the nursery room

3 common signs of fever in a baby

1. Hot to the touch. Is your baby’s skin warmer than usual?

2. Fussy. Is your infant sleeping and eating less than normal?

3. Lethargic. Has your little one lost interest in playing?

Does my baby have a fever?

If you are worried that your under-two-year-old may have a fever, take their temperature. Your baby’s temperature may fluctuate, but generally if it goes above 38°C then your baby has a fever.

For infants, a rectal measure is the most accurate. If you don’t have a thermometer, there are other signs of baby fever you can look out for.

Beyond baby temperature: what are other signs of fever?

When your infant has a fever, you may notice changes in their behaviour and mood that can act as signals to you that something is wrong. Obviously, every baby is different and you, as their parent, are best placed to know what’s normal for your little one and what isn’t. But common signs of fever may include:

  • Not sleeping as well as usual
  • Not eating as well as usual
  • Not as interested in playing as they normally are
  • Lethargic or less active than usual
  • In severe cases, seizures or convulsions
Mother cuddling her baby daughter in her arms

What can cause a baby fever?

A fever is a sign that the body’s natural defences are fighting an infection— this is true for your baby and for you. If your little one has a fever, it’s likely that they’ve caught a bug like the flu, or they could have another common infant illness like an ear infection.

Consult a doctor if your baby has a fever so you can determine and address the cause. In rare cases, a fever can signal a more serious illness, such as meningitis. Tell your doctor immediately if your baby has other symptoms such as rash, vomiting or diarrhoea.

Although it may be distressing to you as a parent, and it may cause your baby discomfort, a fever itself is not harmful for your infant. Their temperature will go back down to normal once the underlying cause is gone. In the meantime, keep a close watch over them and make them as comfortable as possible.

Parent with their baby at the doctor's office

What is normal baby temperature?

Below that 38°C definition of a fever, what is considered ‘normal’ in a baby temperature is not a specific number but a range. Their body temperature, like yours, will vary slightly depending on ambient factors like the weather or room temperature. Your little one may feel warm simply because they have too many clothes on.

As a parent, you may wonder when to worry about a baby temperature. A temperature itself is rarely harmful and usually remains below 41°C.

Mother kissing the hand of her new born baby

When should I get help?

If your baby appears uncomfortable or distressed after you’ve tried some of the remedies below, contact your doctor and arrange to have them seen as soon as possible. You know your little one best and should always trust your instincts to tell you when something is wrong.

You should also seek urgent medical advice if your baby has any of the following symptoms in addition to a fever:

  • Is less than three months old
  • Has difficulty feeding or breathing
  • Has a seizure or convulsions
  • Is floppy, overly lethargic or non-responsive
  • Has a rash, especially one that doesn’t blanche when a glass is pressed against it
  • Shows signs of being dehydrated which include fewer wet diapers, no tears when they cry and a sunken ‘soft spot’ on their head.
  • Is extremely fussy or difficult to settle

How can I make my baby more comfortable?

There are a number of home remedies that can help and make your feverish baby more comfortable. You can try these while also treating the root cause of the fever. Depending on your doctor’s advice and your baby’s age, you can also use over-the-counter medicines containing paracetamol, such as Children’s Panadol, to help reduce your child’s fever.

Young mother touching her sick baby's forehead with a thermometer in hand

How can I bring down my baby’s fever?

No matter what’s causing your baby’s fever, there are a few things you can try to help keep them comfortable:

  • Give them a sponge bath Using lukewarm (not cold) water, gently wipe them down with a soft sponge or cloth and let the air dry them. You can also give them a bath if you prefer but, again, use lukewarm and not cold water. Always check the water temperature on your wrist before sponging them down or putting them into the bath.
  • Remove layers of clothing  Make sure your baby’s not overdressed or covered in blankets. If they start to shiver, you can add back light layers of clothing until they seem comfortable.
  • Give them lots to drink  It’s very important to keep your little one from becoming dehydrated when they have a fever. This means plenty of breast milk or formula, electrolyte solution or water, depending on their age (ask your doctor if you’re unsure).
  • Try over-the-counter medicines Paracetamol, such as Children’s Panadol, can be used to bring down fever if your baby is older than two months. Consult your doctor first if your baby is under two months oldxviii. Always follow the dosage guidelines on the packaging for your infant’s age and weight and be sure not to give them more than one medicine containing paracetamol. Never give your baby aspirin and don’t give ibuprofen to infants under three months old.
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