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When your baby or infant has a fever

Fever - infant; Fever - baby

The first fever a baby or infant has is often scary for parents. Most fevers are harmless and are caused by mild infections. Overdressing a child may even cause a rise in temperature.

Regardless, you should report any fever in a newborn that is higher than 100.4°F (38°C) (taken rectally) to the child's health care provider.

What to Expect at Home

Fever is an important part of the body's defense against infection. Many older infants develop high fevers with even minor illnesses.

Febrile seizures occur in some children and can be scary to parents. However, most febrile seizures are over quickly. These seizures do not mean your child has epilepsy, and do not cause any lasting harm.

Eating and Drinking

Your child should drink plenty of fluids.

Children can eat foods when they have a fever. But DO NOT force them to eat.

Children who are ill often tolerate bland foods better. A bland diet includes foods that are soft, not very spicy, and low in fiber. You may try:

Treating Your Child's Fever

DO NOT bundle up a child with blankets or extra clothes, even if the child has the chills. This may keep the fever from coming down, or make it go higher.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) help lower fever in children. Your child's doctor may tell you to use both types of medicine.

A fever does not need to come all the way down to normal. Most children will feel better when their temperature drops by even one degree.

A lukewarm bath or sponge bath may help cool a fever.

When to Call the Doctor

Talk to your child's provider or go to the emergency room when:

Also, talk to your child's provider or go to the emergency room if your child:

Call 9-1-1 if your child has a fever and:

Related Information

H1N1 influenza (Swine flu)
Flu
Community-acquired pneumonia in adults
Immune response
Stuffy or runny nose - children
Cough
Fever
Acute respiratory distress syndrome
Colds and the flu - what to ask your doctor - child

References

Marcdante KJ, Kliegman RM. Fever without a focus. In: Marcdante KJ, Kliegman RM, eds. Nelson Essentials of Pediatrics. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 96.

Mick NW. Pediatric fever. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 166.

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Review Date: 10/2/2019  

Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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