First things first: the “baby fever” we’re talking about here is the one where your baby has a high temperature. We’re going to discuss what’s normal, when to worry, and when to seek help.
Sidebar: There’s another kind of “baby fever” – aka a strong desire to be a mama. We’re not crazy about the term, but it’s used very frequently. If you’re here for that one, check in with our supportive Peanut community. Is baby fever a real thing? It depends on what you mean by “real, “ and no, it’s not an actual raised temperature. But yes, many women do experience a very strong – bordering on “feverish” – desire to have babies, and that is totally fine and “real.”
Okay. Now back to our regular programming. Let’s talk about fever in babies.
In this article: 📝
- Understanding baby temperature - Baby fever 101
- What is a high temp for a baby?
- When should you worry about a baby’s fever?
- How to bring down baby fever
- When to take baby to emergency room for fever
Understanding baby temperature - Baby fever 101
A fever in babies can be pretty scary, particularly when you’re dealing with one for the first time. They often seem to come out of nowhere, and it’s sometimes quite tricky to determine the source. Urgh, if only your baby was able to just tell you where it hurts.
Yes, nerve-wracking for sure. But hold onto your seats for this plot twist:
The baby fever itself is generally quite harmless. Rather than being a sickness, a fever is actually a symptom of one.
A fever can be a sign that the baby’s defense mechanisms are working as they should. Think of it as the body’s way of waging war against the onslaught of some kind of infection.
So when should you be concerned? Let’s take a look.
What is a high temp for a baby?
If they’re under 3 months, anything 100.4°F (38°C) and above is high.
If they’re between 3 and 6 months, anything 102.2°F (39°C) and above is high.
There are various ways to check for baby fever.
First thing to do, give them a kiss on the head. Are they warmer than usual? If yes, then it’s time to get the thermometer out.
A digital thermometer is more accurate and makes the process a whole lot easier. Might be worth putting one on the shopping list, if you don’t have one lying around already. They’re readily available at pharmacies.
You can use a digital thermometer orally, rectally, or under the armpit.
One of the simpler ways is placing the thermometer under your baby’s armpit:
- Push their arm against their body to hold the thermometer in place.
- Wait for approximately 15 seconds (or whatever the instructions on the box say).
- Take the reading.
Repeat and monitor until the fever is under control.
When should you worry about a baby’s fever?
The thing is, infants with fevers are actually pretty common. (That doesn’t mean it’s not stressful. It’s still seriously stressful.)
Temperatures can rise for all sorts of reasons, usually as a sign that your baby’s body is all-hands-on-deck to fight infection of some sort.
If your baby feels hot to the touch, it’s time to bring the thermometer out—but your baby may also let you know in other ways that they have a fever. They might be seriously fussy, not wanting to eat, or very lethargic. Infants with fevers also tend to breathe faster than normal. In more serious cases, they may have seizures.
Some common causes of fever in babies include:
- Viral infections, such as a cold, flu, or ear infection.
- Immunization response after being vaccinated.
- Teething. (The jury is still out on this one, though. Probably best not to write off a fever to teething without proper investigation.)
Other more worrying causes of baby fever are:
How to bring down baby fever
If your baby is younger than 3 months old and has a fever, it’s best to get them to the doctor as soon as you can.
If your baby is more than 3 months old and has a fever, you should be able to treat them at home in most cases.
Here’s what to do:
- Keep them hydrated. First things first, get that baby some liquid. Baby fever can cause dehydration. Tearless crying? Diapers not as wet as they usually are? Both of these can be a sign of dehydration. If your baby is under 6 months, stick to breastmilk or formula rather than water.
- Keep it cool. Cool down the room. Pop them into a cool, breathable outfit. (Totally fine if you’re struggling to keep your cool. Yes, mama, this is tough.)
- Sponge them down with lukewarm water. A sponge bath can do wonders. Just ensure that the water isn’t too cold so that they don’t get the shivers. (Shivers warm you up, and we want to be heading in the opposite direction.)
- Give them acetaminophen if you need to. Tylenol or generic acetaminophen can be given to babies aged 3 months and up based on their weight. It’s best to chat with your healthcare provider about whether this is the right approach. They’ll also help you confirm the dosage.
When to take baby to emergency room for fever
And then there are times when a trip to the emergency room is in order.
Seek medical help if:
- Your baby is under 3 months old and has either a very high or very low temperature.
- Your baby is over 3 months old and:
- Has had a fever for more than 24 hours.
- Has a recurring fever.
- The fever doesn’t come down after an hour of giving them medication.
- They develop a rash.
- They are super fussy and not calming down.
- They are really sleepy and weak.
- They are vomiting or have diarrhea.
- They are dehydrated (no tears, less pee).
Even if your baby doesn’t have those symptoms, there’s absolutely no harm in reaching out to your healthcare provider if you are concerned. Peace of mind is totally worth the call/trip/message. Nobody said you have to do this alone.
Wishing your little one a speedy recovery—and you a whole lot of strength. This parenting thing. Wow.