While being warm to the touch could just mean that your little one has been wrapped up, a fever can be an early sign of something more serious. Fevers in young babies and children are usually caused by infections or a reaction to their vaccinations.
But to tell if your baby is just a little warm, or if they genuinely have a fever, you need to know the answer to the question: “what is a baby’s normal temperature?”.
In this article: 📝
- What temperature is considered “normal” for a baby?
- Ways to measure a baby’s temperature
- Should you panic if your baby has a fever?
What temperature is considered “normal” for a baby?
So, what should a baby’s temperature be?
A normal baby temperature is about the same as the normal temperature for an adult or older child: around 98.6℉ or 37℃.
This is an average, and a temperature reading within a small range on either side of this is still considered normal.
If you see a temperature slightly on one side or the other, it might be down to a few different factors:
- How you take their temperature – a reading from their bottom will always be higher than one from under their arm
- If they’ve been wrapped up warm (or even too warm, with too many layers)
- If they’ve been in the sun
- The time of day – a baby’s body is naturally warmer in the evenings than in the early mornings
Taking all of this into account, if your baby’s temperature is anywhere between 96.8–100.3℉ or 36–37.9℃, they wouldn’t usually be considered to have a fever.
So if you’re asking yourself ‘is a temperature of 99℉ (or 37.5℃) high for a baby?’ the answer is that it’s the top end of normal, but it’s not a fever yet.
On the other hand, temperature readings above this, from 100.4℉ or 38℃ upwards, are definitely classified as a fever, especially in very young children.
Ways to measure a baby’s temperature
Even if your little peanut feels warm to the touch, you’ll need to measure their temperature with a digital thermometer to know if they have a fever.
- A rectal temperature reading is considered the most accurate. You can measure your baby’s temperature this way from birth until around 12 months, using a digital thermometer with a flexible tip covered with petroleum jelly.
- Using an in-ear (tympanic) thermometer is a quicker, less invasive option once your baby is older than six months.
- If you have something called a temporal artery thermometer, measuring on your baby’s forehead can be as accurate as measuring in their ear.
- Finally, you can take your baby’s temperature under their arm with a basic digital thermometer.
The downside is that an armpit temperature is not as accurate as a rectal temperature.
You should use a lower temperature threshold — around 99℉ or 37.2℃ or higher — to count as a fever, because the temperature under their arm is as much as 2℉ or 1℃ lower than their true internal temperature.
Should you panic if your baby has a fever?
Most of the time, you don’t need to panic if your baby has a fever.
Having said this, any fever in a baby under the age of three months is an emergency.
Newborns’ immune systems are very weak, and infections can take hold and spread quickly.
So if you have a very young baby, with a temperature over 100.4℉ or 38℃, call your doctor straight away.
If your baby is older and their temperature is above the normal range, you can check out our easy and quick guide on what to do about a baby fever.
If they’re older than three months and they’re otherwise their normal self, it is OK to wait for a while and keep checking to see if the fever passes on its own.
If the fever persists for more than 24–48 hours, if your baby has other symptoms such as a rash or congestion, or if your baby isn’t interested in feeding, it’s time to get medical advice.
And even if the numbers about a baby’s normal temperature are all laid out here, you should always trust your instincts, mama. You’re doing a great job!