The first time your baby has a fever can be scary. You may feel lost and panic may even start creeping up to you. Keep on reading to learn what to do if your baby has a fever!
Sooner or later babies get sick. It’s part of life and as uncomfortable and scary it may seem, it is also a natural thing. Nonetheless, you should be prepared and know how to handle it the best way possible! But first things first:
WHAT IS A FEVER?
A fever is nothing other than a higher-than-normal temperature of the human body. It is the way the body has to fight infection. Think of it like this: when you want to clean the baby bottles, you boil them in water. When the body wants to kill the bacteria of an infection, its temperature rises to do so. It is considered a fever when the temperature is above 38°C (100.4°F).
The normal temperature of a grown-up is between 36°C and 37°C (96.8°F and 98.6°F). Babies and children often have a higher temperature than adults, laying around 37.5°C (99.5°F). However, your own temperature may be slightly lower or higher than the average mentioned above. My own temperature is lower, always being around the 35.5°C mark and is nothing to worry about. This is also the case for Benjamin, whose temperature is always around 36°C – which is considered on the low side for a baby. (His doctor is aware of this and we take it into account when he happens to have a fever).
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR BABY HAS A FEVER
Like I mentioned above, although it may be your first reaction, it is important not to panic. It won’t help you and your baby will feel your distress – I swear babies can smell fear! If your baby feels hot to the touch the first thing you want to do it take its temperature.
1- Take the baby’s temperature. If your child is under 3, the best way to do this is with a rectal digital thermometer. If it is at or above 38°C (100.4F), your baby has a fever. But that doesn’t mean you have to get out the medicine right away!
2- Identify the reason for the fever. This is important because a fever doesn’t always mean you need to get concerned. Some babies get a higher temperature when they’re teething or when they experience a particularly stressful day. If your baby is under 3 months old you should take it to the doctor! Otherwise, you can wait and see how it develops.
3- Observe your baby. If your baby is in a good mood, playing and eating well, there’s no need to run to the doctor or raid the pharmacy right away. However, if your baby is fussy, isn’t eating or drinking milk and (very important!) isn’t peeing, you should let the doctor take a look. This obviously also applies if the baby has other symptoms.
4- Try to lower the fever. If nothing else works and the fever gets over 39°C (102.2°F), you can try giving the baby medicine (ask your doctor what the best thing is for your baby!) If the fever goes above 40°C (104°F) and medicine isn’t helping, call a doctor.
HOW TO LOWER A FEVER IN A BABY
Because fever is a natural reaction of the human body to fight infection, medicine can in some cases be contra-productive. There are natural ways to lower a body temperature, which you can try on your baby before using chemicals.
1- Undress. Take as many layers of clothes as you can. If possible leave the baby only with one layer. This obviously depends on where you live and how the heating situation is. But keep in mind too many layers of clothes don’t allow for the body to breathe! Babies often sweat a lot when they have a temperature and having wet or damp clothes may worsen the situation.
2- Warm fluids. Keep offering fluids to your baby, to avoid dehydration. They may not have an appetite, but even a few sips will make a difference. Just keep on offering. In this case, it is best to do so with a bottle or cup – so you can control how much the baby is actually drinking.
3- Get the sponges out. A full-blown bath can do more harm than good if a baby is experiencing a fever. But a sponge bath can actually help drop their temperature! Dab a lukewarm washcloth or sponge on the baby’s forehead, neck, arms, and armpits. Keep in mind the washcloth should be damp and not wet!
4- Onion or quark socks. To be honest, I have never personally tried these methods. However, some people swear by them! In this case slice onions or take some quark and place them on the base of the foot, with some socks or gaze over it to keep them in place. Leave it for 30 to 40 minutes and then remove. I guess it can be worth a try if you’re up for it.
5- Medicine. If nothing else works, there’s medicine for a reason and you should absolutely take advantage of it. Just make sure you ask your doctor what to use and how much.
WHAT ABOUT FEBRILE SEIZURES?
Febrile seizures are also known as a febrile convulsion or febrile fit. They occur when there is a high body temperature, above 38°C and are usually harmless. They are more common in children between 6 months and 5 years and can run in families. During a febrile fit, the child’s body becomes stiff with twitching arms and legs – and can look much like with an epileptic seizure. I will last less than 5 minutes and look worse than it is. If it happens it will definitely be scary to see your baby like that! It is imperative to keep calm, make sure they don’t hurt themselves. Give them space, lay them on the floor and (as harsh and hard as it sounds) let it pass. Don’t try to hold the child in place or make it stop. After it passes (or if it takes longer than 5 minutes) contact a doctor to make sure it was indeed a febrile convulsion. It will be hard, but try to stay calm and keep your baby or child calm as well.
A fever in a baby may seem worse than it is, but they usually have a reason to be and are often harmless. Vaccines may cause fever, mild colds or even teething. Remember: YOU know your child better than anyone. Trust your instincts and when in doubt, there is no shame in contacting a doctor for a second opinion.