What to do if your child has a high temperature

Between 36.5 degrees centigrade and 37.5 degrees centigrade is the normal temperature for the human body. While parents can often be worried by a rise in the temperature of their child, a fever is in fact often a good sign, because it shows that their body is working hard to fight an infection. However, a child can become very uncomfortable, and problems with dehydration can occur with a high fever.

Coping with fever in kids

40 to 60 percent of all children will experience a raised temperature every year, making fever very common in kids. There are a number of ways in which children can be checked in order to determine whether or not they have a fever.

  • Rectal. Gently insert the thermometer into your child’s bottom and take a reading.
  • Ear. Insert a digital thermometer into the ear and take a reading.
  • Oral. Place the thermometer under the tongue and take a reading when the child closes their mouth.
  • Armpit. Place the thermometer beneath the armpit and take a reading while holding your child’s arm against the side of their body.

How to reduce fever

A child that has a fever, but seems otherwise healthy and normal, may not require any attention, other than to ensure that they are kept properly hydrated. Formula or breast milk is the most appropriate fluid for children or babies who are bottle or breast fed. Fluids can also be kept up with the use of pre-boiled, cooled water. If the child seems distressed or otherwise unwell, medication such as children’s pain killers may be used. The child should be dressed in light clothing and kept cool by maintaining a comfortable and consistent room temperature that is neither too hot nor too cold.

When to see a doctor

Medical attention should be sought for a child who is suffering from a fever in the event that they:

  • Are less than six months old
  • Are experiencing convulsions
  • Have a stiff neck, rash, diarrhoea, headache or are repeatedly vomiting
  • Are suffering from earache
  • Are crying inconsolably
  • Have a fever higher than 40 degrees Centigrade
  • Are lethargic, difficult to wake up and appear to be very ill
  • Have had an unchanging fever for more than two days in succession
  • Are having difficulty breathing
  • Are suffering from stomach pain or loss of appetite

If a virus is responsible for the fever, rest, time and fluids is usually the treatment, possibly with the aid of children’s painkillers.