Fevers and Your Baby

Fevers and Your Baby

By Jak Burke

“Your baby has a fever.” Is probably the scariest thing any parent will hear from their MD. An all too common event: you put your baby down to sleep perfectly fine, you awoke to screaming in the middle of the night to a sick baby. You touched your baby’s flushed skin and it’s clammy and burning to the touch. What’s next?

Take his/her temperature

Fever begins at 100.4. If your baby is at 99.9 that’s NOT a fever. Infants are more susceptible to environmental changes like a warm bedroom (if the heat goes on after midnight) and from being over-wrapped. Check both of these things before panicking.

Bacterial fever is different from viral fever

Bacterial fevers occur when the body is fighting off a bacterial infection, like an ear infection (both bacterial and viral), a urinary tract infection or bacterial pneumonia. Bacterial infections happen less often than viral infections – and are therefore more concerning. They can lead to severe illnesses if left untreated.  A doctor will most likely prescribe antibiotics.  If your baby’s fever lasts longer than 48-hours you should visit your doctor.

Viral fevers happen when the body is fighting off a disease caused by an environmental virus, such as a flu virus, a cold virus and a stomach virus. These types of sicknesses are common and they generally last around 3-days. Antibiotics have zero effect on a virus and they should not be prescribed.

Baby under 2-months

A fever in an infant this young (100.4) is considered a medical emergency.

  • Call your MD immediately
  • Go to an emergency room
  • Do not give a fever reliever (unless an MD advises you to) as this can mask serious symptoms
  • Small infants might need blood and urine testing to determine whether the fever is caused by a bacterial infection or a viral infection

Use medications sparingly

A fever is the body’s way of fighting an infection. Before you use a traditional fever medication try to cool down your baby naturally:

  • Use a cool flannel towel or ice bag
  • If your infant is under 6-months most MD’s recommend acetaminophen over ibuprofen
  • Consult the directions on the medication using weight OVER age in determining dosage
  • NEVER give a baby aspirin as in some infants this has been associated with Reye’s syndrome
  • Do not wake a sleeping baby to administer fever medications. Sleep is the body’s best defense against disease
  • Fever rarely causes brain damage – it is a sign of a healthy immune system

Which temperature gadget is best?

Rectal. Rectal thermometers provide the most accurate core body temperature. Underarm, forehead and ear thermometers are not as accurate.

This article serves as a general guide only. All parents must consult with their MD if their baby presents a fever or is sick.