Childhood fever

How do I know if my child has a fever?

If your child feels hot to touch and looks red or flushed, he or she

probably has a fever (a temperature over 37.5 degrees centigrade). You can check this with a thermometer.

Try not to panic. Remember that children, especially under the age of five, are much more likely to run a high temperature than adults. Usually fever indicates an infection but in the majority of cases this infection in children is caused by a virus rather than bacteria. Therefore, antibiotics are unlikely to help and the most important issue is to lower the temperature as a sustained high temperature in small children may lead to fits (febrile convulsions).

You can treat a fever by:

  • Keeping your child cool by gently sponging them with lukewarm (not cold) water and letting the water dry on the skin.
  • Make sure your child does not have too many layers of clothes or blankets on.
  • Give your child extra drinks.
  • Give your child paracetamol liquid. Read the instructions on the bottle carefully and give the dose according to your child's age. For babies it is helpful to use a special medicine syringe so you can measure the dose accurately. Ask your pharmacist for one. If your child is vomiting and cannot keep the liquid down, you can give paracetamol suppositories which are available over the counter from your pharmacist. If necessary, give your child a second dose 4-6 hours later.
  • If your child's temperature is still high, contact your doctor for advice.

Important things to remember:

  • Do not give aspirin to children under 12 years of age.
  • Contact your doctor immediately if your child has a temperature of 39 degrees centigrade or above, or has a fit, or has a purplish rash which does not blanch on pressure (this may indicate meningitis).
  • If the surgery is closed, go to your nearest hospital accident and emergency department.
  • Follow your instincts and speak to your doctor if you are worried about your child.
  • The majority of children who get febrile convulsions do not suffer any long-term consequences and are not at any increased risk of developing epilepsy later.

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