A fever is a common sign of illness, but it’s not always a bad thing. In fact, a fever is usually a normal response of a child’s immune system to a virus or bacterial infection.
Most healthy children can tolerate a fever well, and it lasts about 3 to 5 days under normal circumstances.
The most common cause of fevers in babies is a viral infection. In some cases, teething can cause a slight increase in body temperature. In younger babies, a fever could be a sign of a serious infection.
When you see your baby’s temperature rise, it can be a great concern for you. You may be in a dilemma whether to call the doctor or get emergency medical care. The guidelines below may be helpful.
Baby Fever Guidelines as per the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
- Newborns up to 3 months of age: Anything higher than 100.4 degrees (38 degrees Celsius) is a matter of concern.
- Infants between 3 and 6 months of age: A fever higher than 101 degrees (38.3 degrees Celsius) should be checked by your pediatrician.
- Babies age 6 months or older: A temperature over 103 degrees (39.4 degrees Celsius) needs immediate consultation with a doctor.
If your baby shows other signs or symptoms of illness, such as a cold, cough, vomiting or diarrhea, consult your doctor. Moreover, as a parent, always trust your instincts. If you think you should contact the doctor, go ahead.
In any situation, in addition to your doctor’s prescribed medication, you can follow a few tips to help manage or reduce your baby’s fever.
Here are the top 10 ways to reduce a fever in babies.
1. Cold Compresses
As soon as your baby develops a fever, the first thing to do is put a cool, wet washcloth on your baby’s forehead. As the water from the wet washcloth evaporates from the skin, it will draw the fever out and the temperature will come down quickly.
- Put some cool tap water in a bowl.
- Soak a clean washcloth in the water.
- Wring out the excessive water, then place the wet cloth on the baby’s forehead.
- Once the cloth warms, remove it and repeat again.
- Do this until the fever has gone.
You can also use the damp washcloth to sponge areas like your baby’s armpits, feet, hands and groin to reduce the temperature.
Note: Never use very cold or ice water, as it may cause the internal body temperature to increase.
2. Lukewarm Bath
A lukewarm bath will help relax a fussy baby and help regulate the body temperature. It will even help your baby sleep better, which is needed for faster recovery.
- For babies younger than 6 months, give a lukewarm sponge bath 2 or 3 times a day.
- For babies 6 months or older, give them a regular bath in lukewarm water a few times a day.
After each bath, dress your baby immediately.
Note: Never use very hot or cold water, as it may cause the internal body temperature to rise.
3. Breast Milk
For babies younger than 6 months old who have a fever, breast milk is very important. It offers a unique balance of nutrients that strengthens a baby’s weak immune system and is tailored to fight a baby’s illness.
Breast milk is quickly and easily digested. It will even keep a sick baby properly hydrated, which is essential for faster recovery.
- Try to breastfeed your young baby frequently. If your baby refuses to nurse while experiencing a fever, try different nursing positions. You can keep the baby upright while breastfeeding to make your baby more comfortable during feeding sessions.
- If your baby regularly refuses nursing, pump out the breast milk and feed it to your baby using a spoon or bottle.
4. Give More Fluids
For sick babies, it is important to increase fluid intake. Fluid will help cool them down and replace the fluid lost through sweating to prevent dehydration.
Dehydration may lead to various other complications and delay recovery.
Due to having a fever, babies may refuse large amounts of fluid at a time. So, try to give them smaller amounts more often.
- Give oral rehydration solutions (either homemade or readily available in the market) along with lukewarm water to small babies younger than 6 months old to help replenish fluids and electrolytes.
- Along with water and oral rehydration solutions, cold milk, ice pops, fruit juice and chilled yogurt can be given to babies 6 months or older.
5. Keep Your Baby in a Cool Place
When taking care of a sick baby, it’s important to keep a close eye on the room temperature. It should not be too hot or too cold. Keep your baby’s room at a comfortable temperature between 70 and 74 degrees (21.1 to 23.3°C).
- If using a fan, keep it on a low setting. However, make sure your baby is not sleeping directly under the fan.
- If using an air conditioner, keep the temperature at a comfortable level. Make sure your baby doesn’t shiver and raise his or her temperature.
- Also, avoid using the room heater nonstop, as it can make your baby overheated.
Keep your sick baby indoors in a cool place most of the time. If you are taking your baby outside, try to stay in the shade.
6. Dress Your Infant Comfortably
Many parents make the mistake of bundling up their sick child with layers of clothes or extra blankets. This is something parents should avoiding doing, as it may keep the temperature from going down or even make it go higher.
Infants cannot regulate their temperature well, hence when bundled in layers, it will be harder for them to cool down once overheated. Too much clothing will even prevent radiating body heat into the surrounding air.
Dress your baby in one layer of lightweight clothing. If needed, use a light blanket when your baby is sleeping.
Also, keep your baby in a comfortable room, where the temperature is not too hot or too cool.