A fever, quite simply, is a higher than normal body temperature. The average temperature for a child lies between 36.5 to 38 degrees Celsius. If the body temperature is higher, your child has a fever. A fever is the body’s normal defence action against disease – mainly viral infections – and not harmful in itself. In fact, fevers support the body’s immune system in fighting the cause of infection. A child’s body temperature returns to normal when the infection settles.
A fever may also arise when the heat a child’s body is producing exceeds their ability to cool down, such as during prolonged exposure to the sun on a hot day.
Ordinarily, parents don’t have to be worried about the fever itself. It is more important to find the cause of it and monitor any additional symptoms.
Signs and symptoms
Your child may:
Feel tired and miserable
Feel cold in the hands and feet
Look flushed and feel hot
Have increased breathing or heart rate
Be quieter and less active than normal
Be vomiting or not drinking
Babies under three months of age and with a body temperature above 38 degrees should seek the advice of a GP immediately.
How do I manage a fever?
Since a fever is a natural response to infection, it is not always necessary to treat.
If your child feels unwell or uncomfortable, bringing down their temperature may help.
Your Guardian pharmacist recommends cooling the forehead with some slightly warm water but advises against a cold bath or shower.
Your GP or Guardian pharmacist can also assist you with simple measures and medications to reduce fever.
If sick children do not feel like eating temporarily turn to soup and return to a full, nutritionally-balanced diet as soon as possible.
Dr Bug’s helpful tips
Do you feed a cold and starve a fever?
This old wives’ tale is not necessarily sound advice.
Good nutrition is important to all children, especially sick ones.