My child is hot / has a fever

Fever is extremely common in children and usually suggests that your child has an infection. A child has a fever if their temperature is 38.0°C (100.4°F) or above. The most accurate way of measuring your child’s temperature is with a digital thermometer.

  • Viral infections are far more common than bacterial infections.
  • Symptoms such as runny nose, cough, wheeze, sore throat, red eyes and diarrhoea are more suggestive of a viral infection than a bacterial infection. If a number of people are unwell in the same household, this also suggests a viral infection (because viral infections are easily spread).
  • Fever is common in babies up to 48 hours after receiving immunisations - it is OK to give paracetamol after the MenB vaccine without seeking medical advice if your baby is otherwise well.
  • Occasionally, children with fever can have a seizure/fit.  This is called a febrile convulsion and most commonly occurs in children aged between 6 months and 3 years.  They generally occur on day 1 of the fever, and in most cases have no long term effects.  
  • Viral infections tend to get better on their own and do not need treatment with antibiotics. Antibiotics may actually cause side effects such as rash and diarrhoea and can increase the risk of them developing antibiotic resistance.

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What should you do?

  • To make your child more comfortable, you may want to lower their temperature using paracetamol (calpol) and/or ibuprofen. Use one and if your child has not improved 2-3 hours later you may want to try giving the other medicine. However, remember that fever is a normal response that may help the body to fight infection and paracetamol/ibuprofen will not get rid of it entirely.
  • Avoid tepid sponging your child – it doesn’t actually reduce your child’s temperature and may cause your child to shiver.
  • Encourage them to drink plenty of fluids.
  • If a rash appears, do the glass test

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Download 'Fever' advice sheet for children UNDER 5 years of age

Download 'Fever' advice sheet for children OVER 5 years of age

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How long will my child’s symptoms last?

  • Fever caused by a viral infection tends to improve within 2 to 3 days.
  • If your child’s fever lasts for more than 5 days, get them seen by your GP.
  • The chart below shows how long fever lasts in a child with viral infections. The faces represent 10 children who have seen their GP with a viral infection. Green faces are those children whose fever has recovered within that time period.

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The diagrams above are taken from www.whenshouldiworry.com

Feverish Child

When should you worry?

Your child should see a doctor if they...

  • are drowsy or irritable. Children with fever are often sleepy and miserable but if they remain drowsy or irritable despite their fever coming down, they should see a doctor the same day.
  • have breathing problems, such as rapid breathing, shortness of breath or laboured breathing (drawing in of muscles below the lower ribs when they breath in, or blue lips).
  • have cold or discoloured hands and feet with a warm body.
  • have a rash that doesn't fade under pressure using the glass test.
  • have severe arm or leg pain (for no obvious reason).
  • have a fit/seizure.
  • are pale and floppy.
  • have a fever 3 or more days after developing chickenpox.
  • are showing signs of dehydration (sunken eyes, passing very little urine, becoming lethargic or difficult to wake, sunken soft spot on head in children less than a year of age).
  • are less than 6 months of age and have a fever of more than 38°C / 100.4°F (fever is common in babies up to 48 hours after vaccinations).
  • have a fever that lasts for more than 5 days.

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Where should you seek help?

Find urgent care services near you

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