A baby laying on a bed sheet, crying.
Fevers in infants can often result in irritability and crying.

What to Know About Fevers in Infants

Babies are as adorable as they come. One particular charm that adds to their cuteness is the limited way they express themselves. However, this same reason is what makes them vulnerable. When babies are sick, they cannot voice what hurts. So, it is a parent’s job to identify fevers in infants.

As parents, we do our best to identify other cues to help us understand our baby’s needs. One of the most utilized signals in childcare is a fever. However, fever alone is not enough to cover the full story. Having a high temperature is usually a sign of an underlying issue, which can be confusing or even misleading for parents.

In this article, we aim to help parents narrow down the reasons for fever among infants, how to provide treatments at home and how to tell when is it necessary to seek medical intervention.

What Is a Fever?

Fever means having a high body temperature. However, the biggest challenge in addressing fever is learning how to identify it. Temperatures ranging in between 97F (36.1C) to 99F (37.2C) are considered to be normal, with 98.6F (37 C) being the average. These parameters apply to both infants and adults alike.

While there are many unorthodox methods of confirming a fever, the most reliable way is by using a thermometer. Here some guidelines on thermometer readings to identify a fever:

  • Temperature is taken orally resulting in 100F (37.8C) or above
    Armpit temperature of 99F (37.2C) or above
  • A rectal temperature of 100.4F (38C) or above. The same range also applies to temperature taken from the ear and forehead

What Does a Fever Mean?

Parents know how unpleasant it can be to have a fever. Thus, this causes anxiety among parents seeing their infants experience the same discomfort they are familiar with. However, a fever is not entirely a bad thing. Fever is not an illness; it is the body’s response to infection.

Raising our body temperature is one of our immune system’s ways to fight against illnesses. It may also be our body’s way of saying that something requires our attention.

What Causes a Fever?

As most causes of fever are related to infection and the same case usually applies to fevers in infants. These infections are associated with the common illnesses that affect their age group:

  • Influenza
  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Umbilical cord infections
  • Ear infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Tonsillitis
  • Roseola/Sixth disease
  • Chickenpox
  • Acute gastroenteritis
  • Meningitis
  • Other common viral or bacterial infection

However, not all fever is caused by infections. Such cases are as follows:

  • Reaction to vaccines
  • Being overly exposed outside on a hot day
  • Overheating from being too warmly clothed
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The Common Symptoms of a Fever

Aside from having a high temperature, infants tend to display other symptoms along with it, such as:

  • Occasional shivers
  • Irritability
  • Sleepiness
  • Sweating

Infants tend to become dehydrated faster compared to adults. It is more accurate in the case of a fever. It is crucial to watch out for the following signs of dehydration such as a dry mouth, lack of tears when crying and sunken eyes.

How to Treat a Fever

Here’s an important note: if the infant having the fever is below three months old, seek emergency treatment right away. Do not try to perform any home remedies without a doctor’s instruction.

For older infants affected by fever, there are numerous ways to address it and minimize the possible discomfort it brings to the child. Here are some tips for treating a fever in an infant.

Firstly, make sure that the baby stays adequately hydrated and allow extra fluids if possible. Watch out for any signs of dehydration and make sure only to provide fluids that are appropriate for the infant’s age. If unsure, seek professional advice. Also, dress the infant in a light layer of clothing. Keep the baby’s surrounding cool and well ventilated.

Another treatment option is to bathe your child using lukewarm water. A sponge bath is also another option. Always test the temperature of the water first before using it on your child and watch out for signs of chills in your child.

Lastly, seek your doctor’s advice before providing any medicine for treating fever. Although there are medications for fevers in infants, specific restrictions might make it inappropriate, if not dangerous, for your child.

Fevers usually go away by themselves when the infection has subsided. However, there are still cases where fever may develop complications that require intervention from a medical professional.

When to See a Doctor

Not every fever requires medical treatment from a doctor. Remember, if your infant is less than three months old, then a doctor’s help is required. If dehydration is evident, if the infant is vomiting or has unexplained rashes, then a doctor’s treatment is needed as well.