Does your child have a fever

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It's hard not to worry when your baby is crying and her temperature is soaring but fever seldom does harm. A fever is simply the elevation of the body's temperature above normal. Normal body temperatures in a well child can range from 97.7 degrees F / 36.5 degrees C to 100 degrees F / 37.8 degrees C. Babies have higher temperatures than older children, and everyone's temperature tends to go up during the day and down after midnight. In general, a baby isn't considered feverish unless her temperature is over 100 degrees F / 37.7 degrees C in the morning or over 101 degrees F / 38.2 degrees C in the evening

More important than the actual temperature is your child's behaviour. If she has a fever of 102 degrees F / 38.9 degrees C, is feeding well, responsive and easily comforted, you have less reason to worry than if her fever is 101 degrees F / 38.2 degrees C, she's crying inconsolably and she's limp and unresponsive. Contact your doctor if your baby is acting oddly, if she suddenly starts crying more than usual and you can't comfort her in the usual ways, if she's lethargic and not interested in feeding. You should be more cautious with a younger baby especially those under 3 months of age and doctors expect to do more checks on younger babies with fever. Babies often get ill quickly but they also recover quickly. However, you should contact your doctor if a fever lasts longer than 3 days.

Parents can usually tell if their child has a fever by touching or kissing her brow (studies show that this method is accurate about 75% of the time). Use a thermometer to get an exact reading. Don't use an oral (mouth) thermometer until your child is three years old. If your baby is too young to have a thermometer in her mouth, a temperature reading taken from her armpit will be accurate enough to tell if she has a fever. Hold the bulb end of the thermometer in the child's armpit with her elbow against her side for about five minutes (the newer digital thermometers beep when they've finished the measurement). Underarm readings register one or two degrees lower than internal readings, so make the adjustment upwards. An ear thermometer is a quick and precise way to take your child's temperature but is expensive to buy and requires a steady hand to get an exact reading. Alternatively, fever strips, which you hold on your child's forehead, are less accurate but are useful with a squirming toddller.

You don't need to treat a fever unless your child is very uncomfortable, or if she's had febrile convulsions in the past. Here are some fever-soothing measures: 

If your child is more than eight weeks old and has a fever, you can give her a dose of paracetamol suspension such as Calpol or Disprol to bring down the temperature. Follow the dosage instructions carefully. The correct dose of ibuprofen can be given instead. Paracetamol and ibuprofen are not normally recommended for babies under two months and never give a baby or child under 12 aspirin, which has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal illness. 

Dress your baby in light, cotton clothing (don't bundle a baby to burn out the fever). 

Keep her room cool. If necessary, place a fan near the cot, and use only a sheet or light blanket for covering. 

Give lots of fluids. Small babies need plenty of what they usually drink -- breast milk or formula. If you've already introduced other drinks, offer ice lollies, clear soups, or diluted fruit juice. 

Try a sponge bath. Put your child in a shallow bath of lukewarm water, and rub her body, one area at a time, with a lightly wrung flannel or sponge. Don't dry her off; let the water evaporate. This may make her feel more comfortable.


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