Baby’s got a fever

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Your baby's body thermostat is still developing. As a result, signs other than a fever - poor appetite, lethargy and irritability - may be more reliable early indicators of an infection. Using an ear thermometer has become the more popular method of taking your baby’s temperature.

The accuracy of thermometers varies and one ear may read higher than the other ear. Don’t get hung up on the numbers, though. If your baby seems listless and generally ill, any high temperature needs attention.

What temperature constitutes a fever?

  • Normal temperature –36 to 37.2 deg C
  • Low-grade fever – 37.3 to 38.3 deg C
  • Common fever – 38.4 to 39.7 deg C
  • High fever –39.8 deg C

In the majority of cases, a fever is the body's natural reaction to an acute viral or bacterial infection and is not necessarily considered a dangerous condition in itself. Rather, a fever is a sign that the body is defending itself against the infectious invader.


When to call the doctor

If your infant is 6 weeks or younger, and has a fever of 38 degrees C, call your doctor immediately.

  • If the doctor’s not available, take your baby to the hospital.
  • Don’t give any fever-reducing medications in this situation (you don't want to hide the fever until after a doctor has evaluated your baby).

To treat a low-grade fever at home

  • Offer frequent drinks or breastfeeds.
  • Give the baby a sponge bath with lukewarm (not cold) water.
  • Dress the patient in light layers that are easy to remove.
  • Keep blankets light and don’t overheat the room.
Do you know what to do when your baby has a fever? Can you read the signs?
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