Our resident family GP, Connie Chen on…. managing childhood fever

It’s natural to worry if your child or baby has a raised temperature. Hopefully I can give parents and carers the confidence to look after little ones with fever at home and explain when and how to seek medical help.

Fevers are common in young children. They are often caused by viral infections and usually clear up without treatment – just TLC, keeping the child comfortable and more drinks (little and often).

A fever is above 38° C and is part of the body’s natural response to fight infection. It can often be left to run its course provided your child is drinking enough and is otherwise well.

A fever is best measured either under the arm (in the armpit) with an electronic thermometer or a digital ear thermometer. Avoid using forehead thermometers which are unreliable.

However, you know your child best. Your gut feelings are important and should not be ignored.

If you think something is wrong, call NHS 111 or your GP practice for advice.

In a baby under 3 months age, a fever of 38° is significant and the baby needs to see a doctor. Contact your GP or call NHS 111 immediately.

Fever can cause dehydration. It’s really important to encourage older babies and children to drink more (where a baby is breastfed the most appropriate fluid is breast milk – so mum needs to drink more). Ice lollies can tempt older children if water or juices are refused.

If your child is having trouble drinking, trying to reduce their temperature may help with this.

  • Give regular paracetamol liquid every 4 to 6 hours (appropriate dose) and continue to check the wetness of nappies and colour of wee. The wee should be pale not dark.
  • If the nappies are drier or the colour of the wee is darker, contact your GP or NHS 111 that day. Other signs of dehydration are dry mouth, sunken eyes or sunken soft spot on the top of the head in babies.
  • Avoid giving ibuprofen liquid if your child is dehydrated
  • Do not give ibuprofen if your child has suspected chickenpox.

If the fever continues for more than 2-3 days, contact your GP or NHS 111 that day.

There are more serious causes of fever. If your child has a fever and is different in him or her-self such as:

  • Skin colour (mottled, blue, rash)
  • Less responsive
  • Unusual crying
  • Grunting
  • Laboured breathing

Call 999.

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