Figuring out if your baby has a fever may not turn out to be as you thought because sometimes a child may feel hot but not really have a fever while at times it is difficult to realize normal baby temperature or baby fever temperature by just touching the skin.
If you are concerned about your baby’s health and need some information on the topic of baby fever then you have come to the right place.
To start off simple, feel your child’s forehead, back or stomach and see if they feel hotter than usual. However, an infant will also show some of the following signs if their temperature is high:
- Cheeks may be flushed
- May start to sweat
- May show signs of shivering- as in they may feel cold even though they feel warm to touch
- Be uncomfortable or irritable
- Lack of appetite
- Lack of sleep
- May complain of muscle pain (if the child is old enough to speak)
If you suspect that your child has fever then the first thing to do is check their temperature with a digital thermometer for the fastest and most accurate reading. We will explain to you how to go about that but before that make sure your child has not been wrapped in blankets, has not been taking a bath or has not been doing any activity that could alter their body temperature. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article that sometimes a child may not have the fever but their skin may just feel warm due to the clothes they had on or because of been very active. The only way you would really know is to check their body temperature and see if it is above the normal range.
How to Check Baby’s Temperature Using a Digital Thermometer
You can purchase a multi-use digital thermometer from your local drug store if don’t have one in the house, they aren’t really expensive- usually costing less than $10. Depending on the type of thermometer you buy, readings are shown in 10 seconds to 2 minutes. Thermometers can be placed under the arm, rectally or orally, although for babies (younger than 4 years) you are advised to avoid placing the temperature in the mouth for safety reasons.
If you want to take the temperature rectally then you can get rectal thermometers which are made especially for the cause with a softer and flexible tip and a much wider handle.
An easier method and also recommended by many doctors is taking a baby’s temperature from the armpit. For this you just need a regular digital thermometer.
Let us take a look at how you can check your baby’s temperature both rectally and from under the arm.
How to Use a Rectal Thermometer
If your baby allows it (some babies don’t) then this method will give you the best and most accurate reading.
- Disinfect the end of the thermometer with rubbing alcohol or with soap and warm water. Dry it and lubricate the end with a bit of petroleum jelly.
- Place your baby on the bed or any comfortable flat surface in the same manner as you do when giving a nappy change. Position her legs bent to her chest.
Place her with her tummy down on your lap, make sure her bottom is up and her legs are hanging down over your thigh.
- Turn on the thermometer and gently insert the end (with a little bulb) into her rectum. You could insert about an inch or lesser if the tip measures less- just follow the instructions on the thermometer to be sure.
- At this point you will need to get both your hands involved as with one hand you must try to keep your baby still and with the other that you used to insert the thermometer- use your free fingers and palm to cup your baby’s bum so that the thermometer does not fall off.
- Digital thermometers will beep when it is time to take the reading.
- Remove it and read the temperature immediately.
- Be sure to clean the thermometer once again with rubbing alcohol or soap and water before storing once it is dry.
Inserting anything into your baby’s bum could cause her to poop a little once the thermometer out so does not worry if that occurs.
How to Take Axillary Temperature (Armpit)
This method is very easy but not as accurate as other methods. Most of the time the temperature reads 1 or 2 degrees lower than the actual internal temperature. Some pediatrics say that this is not the best method if the baby is under 3 months old as accurate temperature reading is crucial at that stage.
But if your child is above 3 months of age then you could use this method.
- Remove your child’s upper body clothing
- Keep your child calm or distracted by showing him something interesting or feeding him something he enjoys eating.
- Dry his under-arm area and place the end of the thermometer with the bulb in to his armpit.
- As you are taking the temperature externally, make sure the bulb is in full contact with the skin and for that you will need to hold his arm pressed firmly against his side until the thermometer beeps.
- Remove the thermometer and check the readings on the display.
Other thermometers include temporal artery thermometers and ear thermometers. But the above two methods are the most commonly used.
If you wish to use a temporal artery thermometer or an ear thermometer then follow these steps.
Temporal Artery ( forehead infrared)Thermometer
These kinds of thermometers are not the easiest to use but once you get the hang of it you can use one to check your baby’s temperature even when he is sound asleep.
Non-invasive, fast and comfortable for the baby, the temporal artery thermometer gives accurate results when used correctly.
- Get your child to lie down facing you so you can get a clear view and access to the forehead
- Aim the thermometer at the center of the forehead
- Position its probe in the middle point
- Depress the button
- Move the thermometer right across the forehead from the middle towards the hairline
- Stop at the depression point or perfume spot
- Let go of the button
- Read the temperature
It is important that you slide across the forehead in a straight line so you do not lose track of the temporal artery
How to Use an Ear Thermometer
Be careful when using an ear thermometer with small children and use one only if for some reason you cannot go for any other method. Things like the baby’s ear canal shape and size, ear wax and ear infections could alter the temperature so you may not always be able to get accurate results.
- Clean the ear. Lubricate a small Q-tip with baby oil or olive oil to clean the ear canal of your baby. Wipe off with a dry Q-tip to remove any remaining oil in the ear.
- Put a sterile cover on the tip of the ear thermometer (they must be disposable ones). This will reduce the chances of ear infections, which can be very common among young children. If your thermometer does not come with the sterile covers then make sure to wipe the tip of the thermometer with an antiseptic solution.
- Turn on the thermometer and hold your baby’s head still
- Pull back the ear straight to straighten the ear canal for easy insertion- a curved canal will not give an accurate reading.
- Keep the thermometer in place until it beeps to indicate that reading can be taken.
- Remove the thermometer carefully and write down the reading
Please remember never to use an ear thermometer if your child has an ear infection. Now that you have taken your child’s temperature you need to know what is normal and what is not.
Normal Baby Temperature & Baby Fever Temperature
Anything around 97.5 F (36 C – 37.5 C) is normal in babies and small children but a reading of 100.4 F (38C) or above means that your baby has the fever.
Fever can be mild or severe and always occurs due to an underlying problem- some serious and some not too serious. Fever is not an illness of its own- it is a symptom of an illness.
Common causes of fever in children:
- Ear and throat infection
- Colds and flu
- Heat stroke
- Shortly after a vaccination
Serious causes of fever in children:
- Urine infection (bacterial)
*If your baby is under 3 months old and has a fever then call your doctor immediately or take your baby to the clinic for a checkup.
When to Call Your Doctor
As parents, even the slightest fever or sneeze of a child can make us upset and worried. Fever is actually quite common in babies and goes away sooner than you think most of the time but then there are signs which you should always look out for. Here are some signs which should not be taken lightly.
- Baby is under 3 months of age and has the fever
- Shows difficulties in breathing
- Is very cranky
- Dry mouth, less urination, the sunken soft spot on the head or no tears when crying- these are all signs of dehydration
- Has rashes
- Is tired too often
- Neck stiffness
- Excess vomiting
- Sensitive to light
- Fever has been constant or keeps showing up even after 24 hours has passed
- Fever is over 103 F
- Has a seizure
If one or more of the above symptoms are present then you should seek medical help immediately as they could be indicating something more serious and should be treated as soon as possible.
Things to Consider Before Calling the Doctor
Ask yourself these questions before you call your doctor because your doctor will most likely ask you these things.
- What is your baby’s age?
If your baby is under 3 months and has fever then he or she will need medical attention without any delay. New born babies up to the age of 3 months should not have a temperature over 100.4 F. If your baby is 3 to 6 months old then the temperature should not read over 102 F and anything over 103 F in children over 6 months should be treated right away.
- How long has your baby’s temperature been above normal?
For infants aged 3 to 12 months fever that lasts for more than 24 hours should be looked into with immediate effect. Fever exceeding 2 days in children aged 1 and above calls for attention.
- Has your baby recently been vaccinated?
The most common side effect in children (as well as adults) after vaccination is the fever. However, fever as a side effect should not last long.
- What other symptoms are there?
Your doctor may want to know if the fever is accompanied by other signs like a rash, vomiting, lack of appetite, trouble in breathing and so on. As soon as you find out about your child’s fever, check for other symptoms.
Things to Avoid When Your Baby Has Fever
- Cold bath- You may think that you can take the help of cold water to cool down your baby’s fever, but you will be doing more harm than good because the skin reacts to cold water or anything cold in general by increasing the temperature, which will cause your child to shiver and feel worse.
- Dress in multiple layers of clothing or in very warm clothes- Your child will most likely feel cold but you must avoid dressing him in extra clothes because if he sweats and the sweat cannot escape the body then your child may catch a cold.
- Take him out in the sun-Keep your baby indoors and if you out then make sure you are under a shade
- Allowing your baby to stay without eating. Your baby might lose his appetite and refuse to eat as normal but you should not give up on trying to get him to eat because nourished children will be able to fight diseases better. Not eating will also cause your child to become weak.
- Over feeding- Know when to stop pushing your child to eat because he might respond by vomiting which will cause dehydration. It is best to feed your baby slowly and mostly in liquid.
Ways in Which Baby’s Temperature Can Be Reduced
If you want to avoid giving your baby medicine (unless the doctor recommends something) you could take a few steps to keep his temperature down. Please note that reducing the fever will not necessarily treat any underlying problems but it will help your child feel better until the main illness is cured.
Try these methods:
- Give your baby a bath with lukewarm water- avoid cold water because your baby is already probably feeling cold due to fever and the cold water will make him shiver. Shivering causes the body to react by rising the temperature even more which is not what you should be aiming for.
- Give him a sponge bath- If you do not want to give your baby a bath or you feel that he doesn’t want to move much then you could use a sponge to wipe his body all over. Dip a sponge in water and wipe every part of his body, paying more attention to the armpits, stomach, back and groin area. This will cool him down as the water evaporates from the skin.
- Dress your baby in simple cotton clothes. Putting layers of clothing will not allow the fever to escape from his body and may make him feel worse. However, if your child is feeling cold then you must cover him with a thin blanket only until he feels warm.
- Cool your baby from inside out- Give your baby a lot of fluids to drink to prevent dehydration and cool the body from the inside.
- Offer him frozen treats because they also cool the body.
- Have a fan blow fresh air around your baby. Make sure the fan is not aimed directly at him and try to keep it running on low speed.
- Use a suppository if your baby is over 6 months old only.
- Avoid taking your baby outdoors; especially in the sun because the sun could cause further dehydration-making him feel worse.
A fever is usually a quick passing phase but it can cause a lot of pain and discomfort for your baby while it is present. You can keep the temperature from going up and also help your baby feel better while it is been taken care of if you follow the steps covered in this post. Be cautious and always keep your doctor updated of any change you notice in your baby’s health.