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Fever phobias: getting to grips with kids and high temperatures

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

We’re in the thick of cold and flu season right now – and feverish kids are a worry for parents. But try not to panic – strange as it may seem, fevers are actually a good thing, as they’re the body’s way of fighting infections. Left alone, a fever will often pass within a few days. But what should we do when our child has a high temperature, and when should we be worried? Read on for my responses to the most common fever-related questions I get from parents on my courses:

· What is normal body temperature?

Varying from person to person, normal body temperature is usually around 36.5-37 degrees Celsius

· What is classed as a fever?

37.5 degrees Celsius or above is normally classed as a fever. When your child is feverish, they will feel hot to the touch, their skin may be flushed, and they may be quite lethargic.

· What can I do when my child has a fever?

A high temperature isn’t necessarily an indication of the severity of an illness - I‘ve seen kids with a high fever being active and other kids with a low fever seeming quite unwell. It’s more about how the child is presenting with the fever. Monitor them often using a thermometer, and if they’re uncomfortable, consider giving Calpol or Ibuprofen. Don’t over dress them and be aware of the room temperature. Be equally cautious of under-dressing, and it’s no longer recommended to sponge down or give cool baths. Make sure they are getting plenty of fluids especially if they are vomiting or have diarrhoea.

· What type of thermometer should I use?

I recommend a digital thermometer. There are many different kinds – the best one to use may depend on your child’s age. The thermometer provided in the NHS baby boxes is usually a digital ear thermometer. These are highly accurate but potentially less so when used in younger babies, as it can be difficult to get a good fit in their small ears. In this case, you might want to use one for under the armpit instead.

· When should I seek medical advice?

With plenty of TLC at home your child should be back to their normal bouncy self in no time, but occasionally there will be a need for investigation and treatment, especially if your child is showing no signs of improving. For babies under 3 months, seek advice even for a mild fever. For older children, check guidance on the NHS website, but also trust your instincts – you know your child best and if you’re at all concerned, get help.

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