A sick child will worry any parent, but when your baby has a fever, it’s even more worrisome. A baby’s immune system is not yet matured, which means it can be more difficult to fight an infection. Additionally, your baby cannot tell you what’s hurting him, so you don’t know where the problem lies. Understanding when a fever is a sign of a big problem can help you make your little one feel better.
Taking a Baby’s Temperature
Taking your baby’s temperature can be tricky. She’s not yet old enough to take the temperature orally, so you’ll have to take it from the rectum, armpit or ear. Though taking it can make you cringe, the rectal temperature is the most accurate. Use a digital thermometer and place a bit of petroleum jelly on the tip. With the baby lying down, insert it slightly into the rectum and hold it there until you can get a reading. To get a reading from the armpit, simply place the thermometer in the armpit and hold the arm down until the thermometer beeps. You need a special thermometer for the ear reading. Ask your doctor to show you how to use this type of thermometer, as you need to position it correctly for an accurate reading.
Low-Grade vs. High Fever
A normal body temperature is between 98.6 and 99.9 degrees F. A high fever in an infant is anything above 100.4 degrees F. Anything in between that is a low-grade fever and isn’t cause for concern, unless your baby seems very sick.
Causes of Fever
An infection is the usual cause of a fever in a baby. However, there are other things that may cause a high temperature reading. For example, if your child has just come out of a bath, her temperature will be higher than normal. It can also be high if you dress her too warmly for the weather, such as keeping her winter coat on during a long car ride.
Fever and Young Infants
Talk to your doctor about when she wants you to call if your baby has a fever. Typically, if your child is 4 months old or younger, your doctor will want to take a more cautious approach to fever, asking you to bring her in if the fever is 100.4 degrees F or higher. In an older infant, you may not have to worry until the fever is over 101 degrees F.
Bringing Fever Down
A fever means that the body is fighting an infection, so you may not always want to bring it down. However, if your baby’s fever is more than 101 degrees F, or he seems to be fussy and in pain, you can use acetaminophen to bring the fever down. Correct dosages for infants are based on age and body weight, so ask your doctor about the right dose for your baby.