When I was little and feeling ill, my mom would simply touch her lips to my forehead and know instantly if I had a fever. I thought she was magic. Turns out all moms have this magic.
I know when my girls have fevers by putting my lips to their foreheads, too. When you spend the bulk of your days with a baby in your arms, a rising body temperature actually isn’t too difficult to detect.
However, gauging how high a fever is, and how to treat it depending on the age of the baby can seem a daunting task. Here are some tips on how to measure and treat a fever in your baby:
Is a fever so bad? 1 of 8Despite the initial reaction of most parents, a fever can actually be a good thing. After all, it usually means the body is trying to fight off an infection. Let it fight! Infection begone! But as good as it might be, a fever doesn't mean you should necessarily do nothing.
Types of thermometers 2 of 8Chances are your mom used a glass mercury thermometer on you when you were a kid (if she wanted something a wee bit more accurate than her lips on your forehead, that is). You'd be hard pressed to find one today since a broken mercury thermometer means someone could potentially inhale the vaporized, harmful substance.
Digital thermometers are easy to come by and much easier to use — in the mouth, armpit or rectum. There are also digital thermometers for ears and temporal arteries. It's best to use a rectal thermometer on babies under 6 months since their ear canals can be too small for an accurate temperature to be ascertained.
Keep in mind that one digital thermometer may be used for the whole family, unless you're using it for different body parts. If you plan to take oral and rectal temperatures, for example, buy two different thermometers and label them carefully.
Always be sure to clean the tip of the thermometer after each use with rubbing alcohol or soap and warm water.
Fevers in babies under 3 months 3 of 8Fevers in the youngest babies can be the most serious. If a baby under 3 months has a temperature over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, a doctor should be called immediately so serious infections or illnesses can be ruled out.
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Fevers in babies older than 3 months 4 of 8A normal temperature for a healthy baby over the age of 3 months ranges from 97 to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Anything above that is considered a fever.
For babies between 3- and 6-months-old with a fever of 101 degrees F, or babies 6-months or older with a temperatures of 103 degrees F, call the doctor.
In all cases, regardless of a fever, if your baby isn't playing as normal or taking in fluids, is acting fussy, has difficulty breathing, is pale or flushed, has dry diapers, is showing signs of an earache, not sleeping well or is vomiting or has diarrhea, a phone call to the doctor is always prudent.
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Febrile seizures 5 of 8It's not totally unheard of for children from 6-months-old to 5-years-old with a high fever to experience what's called a febrile seizure (they are most common between the ages of 12- and 18-months). They are usually harmless and generally happen early on in a fever.
A baby might shake and lose consciousness during a seizure. Less often a baby can become rigid or twitch in isolated areas of the body. If your baby has a febrile seizure, place them on their side and turn their head so they won't choke in case they vomit — and make sure nothing goes into their mouth in the meantime. If they have difficulty breathing, turn blue or choke, or the seizure lasts for more than three minutes, call 911, and try to time how long the seizure lasts (a seizure can last from a few seconds to a few minutes). Either way, call your doctor once the seizure is over.
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One way to treat a fever: medicine, and lots of fluids 6 of 8Fluids, fluids and more fluids. Make sure your baby is drinking as much breast milk or formula as possible to avoid dehydration.
Baby ibuprofen and acetaminophen are also usually safe and effective ways to lower a fever and combat the associated symptoms in babies over 6 months. For babies under 6 months, be sure to ask your doctor if baby acetaminophen is OK (because ibuprofen is not recommended). Aspirin — baby or otherwisee — is never OK for a baby, and can be super dangerous for all babies and kids.
Always check with your doctor first about the appropriate dose for your baby based on age and weight, and be sure to use an accurate measuring device and follow the directions carefully about how often you should give it.
Be sure to check with your doctor, too, about whether you should wake your baby to administer a fever reducer.
Another way to treat a fever: naturally, and lots of fluids 7 of 8Since a fever can be the sign of your baby's body fighting an infection, your doctor might advise against a fever reducer. One way to lower a baby's temperature without medicine can be to put him or her in a lukewarm bath or give a sponge bath.
If your baby is taking in plenty of fluids and sleeping normally, in some cases it can be best to let the body do its job and let the fever go down on its own. Just be sure your baby isn't overdressed and the room isn't too warm.
Image: One Step Ahead
What if the fever comes back? 8 of 8A fever reducer is just that — medicine to bring down the body's temperature. It won't necessarily kill the virus that caused the infection in the first place. Sometimes it can take a few days for the illness to dissipate, and, hence, the temperature to go away without the aid of medication.
Fevers as a result of most viral illnesses can last for 3-4 days, while fevers that accompany illnesses such as the flu can last for up to 10 days. Fevers as a result of bacterial infections will usually linger for more than 3 days. In most all cases, you'll notice fevers will get higher late in the day.
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