How to manage your child’s fever

How to manage your child’s fever

(The health information that follows is intended as a guide only and in no way is a substitute for calling your Doctor or Nurse when you have any concerns about your health)


How to manage your child’s fever

This article will discuss what a fever actually is, how and when to treat fever and the signs and symptoms that warrant further evaluation.

What is a fever

A fever is a normal response to a variety of conditions eg infection. The body raises its temperature in order to kill off the new infection be it a virus (most commonly and do not get beaten by antibiotics) or a bacterial infection (can respond very nicely to antibacterial drugs ie antibiotics).

In general, a fever means a temperature above 38 degrees celsius or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Armpit, forehead and ear measurements are easier to get than oral temperatures and may need to be confirmed orally in certain children. It is not accurate to measure a child’s temperature by feeling the skin on their forehead and you should endeavour to always have a thermometer at hand.

Common causes of fever in children include

Throat infections (mostly viral but can be bacterial)

Ear infections

Bronchiolitis (chest illness)

Urinary tract infections

It is debatable whether or not teething causes temperatures but any temperature above 38.9 degrees celsius / 102 degrees Fahrenheit is not due to teething.

Should I treat my child’s temperature?

Sounds like a silly question but there are pro’s and con’s to treating a child’s temperature. Fever may play a role in fighting infection but it might also make your child feel unwell. It’s a common misconception amongst patients that the height of a child’s temperature is the best indicator of whether or not a child needs to be treated or evaluated. It is more important to see how a child appears and behaves.  A child >6 months who is otherwise healthy and acting normally does not require treatment for a fever.

However, fever is usually associated with other symptoms- some of these symptoms require an evaluation by your Doctor even if there is no fever.

Bring your child to a Doctor now if your child

Does not respond to you or is difficult to wake up

Has trouble breathing

Has blue lips/ nails or tongue

Starts to lean forward and drools

Is an infant, and the soft spot on his or her head seems to be bulging or caving in

Has neck stiffness/ severe headache

Has severe tummy pain

Has a rash that won’t disappear when you place a glass on it

Refuses to drink anything

Inconsolable crying

Very irritable/ has no interest in playing

Parent’s “gut” feeling that their child is unwell even if none of the above are present

A doctor’s evaluation is also needed in the following circumstances

Infants <3months with a temperature >38 degrees Celsius or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit no matter how well they look

Children from 3-36 months who have a temperature of >38 degrees Celsius/ 100.4 degrees fahrenheit for more than 3 days and now appear ill (cranky, clingy etc)

Children from 3months to 36 months with a temperature of >38.9 degrees Celsius/ 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit

Children of any age with a temperature of > than 40 degrees Celsius/ > 102 degrees Fahrenheit

Children of any age that have had a febrile seizure

Children of any age who have had recurrent fevers for >7 days

Children of any age who have a fever and a chronic medical disease

Children who have a fever and a new skin rash

Your child has diarrhoea that lasts more than 2/3 days or seems to be getting worse

Your child has vomiting that persists for more than one day

If you think they might be dehydrated eg <5 wet nappies per 24hours/ less alert/ active

Has pain urinating

Has a sore throat or ear that cannot be controlled

Fever treatment options


Do not give any medication to child under 3 months old without speaking to a Doctor. Paracetamol (calpol) and ibuprofen (nurofen) are the most effective ways to treat any other child’s fever. They are also painkillers and can reduce any pain your child may have.

It is recommended to give either calpol or nurofen regularly but not both as this increases the chances of getting your child’s doses wrong. Nurofen is better at reducing temperatures generally but you should avoid it if your child has a reduced oral intake (or appears dehydrated) and take calpol instead. This is because nurofen can damage your child’s kidney if they are dehydrated.

Increase fluids

When your child has a fever they are losing water through their skin and this needs to be replaced. Encourage them to drink more fluids (milk, water, formula etc) but do not force them as a child with a fever may not feel hungry. If your child is unwilling to take fluids for more than a few hours you need to talk to a health care professional.


Your child should be allowed rest as much as they want as they can feel tired and have niggly pains. A child may return to school or other activities when their temperature is normal for 24 hours.

Sponging and baths

Sponging is generally not recommended and is not as helpful as mediations.

Call us at Collins Medical Practice if you have any concerns about your child’s condition.