What to do if Your Baby has a Fever

As new parents, the only thing you focus on is making sure that your baby is safe, healthy, and happy. Seeing them in any kind of pain is heart wrenching and can send mothers into a spiral of terrifying Internet searches. While there are some great resources available to help you better understand what’s happening with your newborn, infant, or baby, they’re not meant to be used as diagnostic tools. Your baby’s immune system is still developing and there are thousands of explanations for rashes, constipation, or an upset tummy. Regardless, when your baby begins to develop a fever, panic inevitably follows. To help with some guidance in this situation, here’s what to do if your baby has a fever.

Causes of Fevers in Babies

The first thing you need to understand is that a fever is a symptom of an illness, not an illness itself. This means that it’s an indication that something else is going on and your baby’s immune system is struggling to fight back. Most commonly, fevers in babies are an indication of a cold or some sort of viral infection. As long as you keep an eye on symptoms and help sooth your baby when needed, these should go away on their own. If they don’t, or if the fever persists, seeing your doctor is essential.

Other things that may cause a fever in your baby include croup, sore throat, pneumonia, ear infections, urinary tract infections, meningitis, blood bacterial infections, a reaction to a vaccination, and being overheated. Some of these causes are rare and many will present additional symptoms.

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Caring for a Sick Baby

As a parent, one thing that you’ll quickly learn is that you’ll do anything to ease the pain of your children. Caring for a sick baby can be more difficult, however, as they don’t have the ability to communicate as clearly. While there are a few things that are surprisingly normal with your newborn, a fever isn’t one of them. To make sure you’re doing everything you can, keep an eye out for physical signs of fevers, take their temperature, and follow a few suggestions on increasing their comfort levels.

Physical Signs of Fevers in Babies

To provide the best care for your baby, make sure that you familiarize yourself with the physical signs of a fever in babies. In addition to being warm and having a high temperature, presence of a fever also causes fussiness or crankiness, poor sleeping, a change in eating behaviors, lack of interest in playing, lethargy, paleness, presence of a skin rash, and in some cases, convulsions or seizures.

How to Take a Baby’s Temperature

There are several different ways that you can take your baby’s temperature. You can take their temperature using a forehead or ear reading, rectally, orally, and under the arm. Use a digital thermometer to take their temperature at a period where they haven’t been exposed to any extreme temperature changes like following bath time or after consuming hot/cold beverages. Armpit readings tend to be the least reliable. Rectal readings are best for young babies or toddlers and oral readings are considered optimal for children over four. Indication of a fever is when a rectal temperature is at or above 100.4 F or higher than 99 F when other methods are used.

How to Bring Down a Fever in a Baby

If your baby is over three months old and has a low-grade fever with no accompanying symptoms or side effects, you can try to bring down the fever at home and soothe them on your own. While this might not require an immediate visit to the doctor, you should keep an eye out for any changes and if the fever does not go down, call your doctor.

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  1. Acetaminophen

    Babies over three months old can take children’s acetaminophen (Tylenol) in safe doses. This can help to offset the fever and comfort your baby. The amount that you’ll give your baby depends on how much they weigh, so if you haven’t been to a doctor’s appointment in a while or they’ve had a growth spurt, you should weigh your baby first. If your baby has a fever but is not showing signs of discomfort, you can forego the Baby Tylenol.

  2. Change Their Clothing

    If your baby has a fever and is in heavy clothing, it will just create discomfort. Change them to lightweight clothing to help keep them cool and avoid unnecessary overheating.

  3. Lower the Temperature

    Sometimes, the temperature in your home can cause overheating similarly to how their clothing would. Check to see what your thermostat is at and consider lowering the temperature in your home. If it helps comfort your baby, keep it low while you continue to fight the fever.

  4. Try a Lukewarm Bath

    Run a lukewarm bath where the water is warm, but not hot. Then give your baby a sponge bath using the lukewarm water. Always remain present for supervision and avoid using cold water. Cold water can have a reverse effect that actually increases your baby’s fever due to shivering. After their bath, dry off your baby and dress them in lightweight clothing. Never give your baby an alcohol bath to lower a fever.

  5. Increase Hydration

    Dehydration can exasperate the complications of a fever. Offer fluids regularly and if you’re concerned with your baby’s hydration, call your doctor. If your baby does not have tears when crying, regular wet diapers, and a moist mouth, they’re likely dehydrated.

  6. Use a Fan

By positioning a fan on your baby at a safe distance, you can try to alleviate the discomfort your baby may feel from having a fever. Make sure that the fan is clean to avoid contaminated airflow and safely distanced from your baby.

If your baby’s fever does not decrease, never delay medical attention. Don’t administer any medications that were not approved by your doctor and never use medications that are intended for adults.

When to Call Your Doctor

While a fever isn’t necessarily an immediate reason to call your doctor, when it’s paired with other symptoms or higher than 100.4 F a proper diagnosis is recommended. Doing so will ensure that your baby is taken care of and you avoid any complications. If your baby continually refuses to eat or is not waking up as easily, call your doctor. You should also call your doctor if you notice a fever accompanied by diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, constipation, rashes, eye discharge, or difficulty breathing.

Febrile Seizures

Occasionally, babies who are older than six months can have seizures that are triggered by a fever. These are called febrile seizures. Febrile seizures occur within the first few hours of the onset of an illness and can last for only a few seconds. However, they can be extremely concerning and traumatizing for parents as your baby will present all signs of seizing, including stiffness, twitching, and eye rolling. While febrile seizures often don’t result in any long-term damage, it’s essential that you call your doctor to make sure there are no lingering complications.

Signs of an Emergency

If at any time your baby’s fever is at 102 F or higher, call your doctor immediately or head to an emergency care center. Similarly, if any of the following symptoms are present, you need to take immediate action.

  • Change in appearance of the soft spot on your baby’s head
  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Redness, swelling, or discharge around the eyes, bellybutton, or genitals
  • Refusal to move or wake from sleep
  • Severe headache or abdominal pain
  • Signs of respiratory distress
  • Stiff neck or swollen joints
  • Uncontrollable crying

If your newborn is three months or younger and has a fever, see your doctor immediately. Babies over three months with low-grade fevers and no accompanying symptoms can be treated and monitored at home. If the fever persists, call your doctor.

While seeing your baby in pain is one of the most difficult things that parents endure, the best way to help them is to try and bring their fever down and seek medical assistance when needed. Always call your doctor if your baby has a fever that persists or is above 102 F. Breastfeeding your baby will help strengthen their immune system as you pass antibodies on. To help ensure that you’re able to give your baby the nutrients they need, regardless of where you are, supplement your breastfeeding sessions with a breast pump. Byram Healthcare has a range of insurance covered breast pumps, with little to no out of pocket costs. Brows our selections today or speak to a representative about how you can receive your free, insurance covered breast pump.