Fever is fairly common in young children but in most cases it will be mild. Signs of a fever include looking flushed or red or feeling hot to the touch and if you notice these symptoms, take your child’s temperature using a thermometer. If you are measuring under the arm a normal temperature should be about 97.4 degrees Fahrenheit (or 36.4 degrees Celsius) and under the tongue it should be just about 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit (or 37 degrees Celsius). This article helps you understand what causes baby high fever and when you should rush to the hospital.

Baby High Fever: What Are the Causes and Symptoms?

In all ages, a fever is a symptom of an illness and not an illness in itself. In most cases babies with fevers will have caught some sort of viral infection like a cold. Although it is rare in infants, it is also possible for fever to indicate a serious infection like meningitis or a bacterial infection (including urinary tract infections). Additional causes of fever in babies can include reacting to a vaccine or becoming overheated due to being outdoors during a hot day or being over-dressed with too many layers.

The most common symptom of high fever in babies is the warm forehead. It is also common for babies with fevers to be crankier than they usually are. They may also not be eating or sleeping as much as normal, have a lack of interest in their usual playtime activities, be lethargic or even experience a seizure or convulsion.

Baby High Fever: When Is a Fever too High?

A fever is any high temperature and usually in the case of children this is considered anything over 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit (37.5 degrees Celsius). A baby high fever is considered anything from 101.3 to 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit (38.5 to 39 degrees Celsius). Babies with very high temperatures always need medication to reduce their fever. After administering it, you should strip down your baby and consider giving him a tepid bath. If there are no changes after about an hour, contact your doctor for suggestions.

“Extremely high” temperatures are considered 102.2 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (39 to 40 degrees Celsius). A temperature in this range indicates the need for infant paracetamol as well as urgent medical care as there is an increased risk of having a febrile convulsion.

Any time that you are concerned, do not hesitate to visit your doctor. You should also contact your doctor (or another medical professional) if your child has a high fever that cannot be reduced by medication. You can also ask for further advice if your baby vomits up the medication or spits it out as there are other alternative medications available including paracetamol suppositories.

Baby High Fever: How to Take Temperature 

The way that you will take your baby’s temperature depends on the type of thermometer that you are using.

Types of thermometer

How to take the temperature

Regular glass thermometer

If it is a classic glass thermometer for under the arms, then you should do your best to hold it in place under your child’s armpit for about three minutes. While doing so, make sure that the tip of the thermometer is in the soft skin of the underarm.

Ear thermometer

Ear thermometers are more popular because they are quick and easy to use but they can vary in terms of accuracy. The general rule of thumb is that if a reading is closer to the normal range, then it will be more accurate so expect the reading to be more reliable if it is 99 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit (37.2 to 38.9 degrees Celsius). Otherwise, you may need to check the reading using another thermometer.

Rectal thermometer

You should only use a rectal glass thermometer for children under three months old. It is an incredibly accurate method and this is crucial at this young age. To use a rectal thermometer, insert it gently about half an inch into your baby’s anus, holding it in place for about three minutes.

Digital thermometer

A final option is the digital thermometer and you can find these in rectal, underarm or oral versions. Although they are fast compared to glass thermometers, they are not usually as accurate.

Baby High Fever: When to See a Doctor

If your infant has an unexplained fever, you should contact your doctor if the fever reaches 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 degrees Celsius). You should similarly call the doctor if your infant is less than three months old and has a fever, will not drink or eat, experiences unexplained irritability along with his fever, experiences lethargy and unresponsiveness in addition to the fever (this can indicate meningitis in children under two years old), or is a newborn with a body temperature that is lower than normal (specifically lower than 97 degrees Fahrenheit (36.1 degrees Celsius). This last one is due to the fact that very young infants cannot always regulate their body temperatures when ill and this may lead to coldness instead of fever.

With older children, you generally don’t have to worry as long as they are still responsive (responding to your voice and facial expressions or making eye contact), playing and drinking fluids. You should, however, contact your doctor if your baby vomits repeatedly, is irritable or listless, has a stomachache or headache, has a fever due to being left in a car that is hot or has a fever that lasts more than a day (if they are younger than 2) or three (if they are two or older).

watch a video to learn how a mom reacted when her daughter had a super high fever: