What is a fever?

While the normal body temperature is around 37°C, fever is usually considered to be any reading over 38°C.1 Fever is one sign your child could be fighting off an infection. The rise in temperature helps your child’s immune system to get rid of the infection, by making it difficult for viruses and bacteria to survive.

Children’s temperatures can also rise for other reasons including teething, after vaccination or if they overheat because of excess bedding or clothing. Close monitoring is the key – that way you’ll know if the rise is a result of your child being tucked in too tightly or due to another reason.

What are the typical signs of fever?

You can generally tell your child has a fever by touching their forehead and by taking their temperature with a thermometer. However, a higher than normal temperature isn’t the only sign.

If a child has fever, they may also:

  • Be irritable
  • Appear hot and flushed
  • Shiver uncontrollably
  • Feel unwell
  • Vomit suddenly.

When should I be concerned about fever?

Although fever doesn’t always indicate a serious illness, you should always see your doctor if:2-5

  • your baby is under three months and has a fever above 38°C.
  • your baby is 3-6 months and has a fever above 39°C. 
  • your child is immunocompromised (has a weakened immune system ) due to a medical condition or medical treatment and has a fever above 38°C, even if they have no other symptoms.2-5

For all other children, take them to see a doctor if their temperature is above 38°C and they have any of the following symptoms:

  • a stiff neck or light is hurting their eyes
  • vomiting and refusing to drink much
  • a rash
  • more sleepy than usual
  • problems with breathing
  • pain that doesn’t get better with pain relief medication.

Also take your child to a doctor if they:2-5

  • have a fever above 40°C, but show no other symptoms
  • have had any fever for more than two days
  • seem be getting more unwell.

Importantly, if you are concerned about your child’s symptoms for any reason, seek medical advice.

How to ease a fever

You will naturally want to make comfort a priority when your child has a fever, and avoiding dehydration is important. Throughout the day, and during any restless periods at night, give your child small amounts of fluids, to help keep them hydrated.

You may also want to try an over-the-counter analgesic designed specifically for children. Nurofen for Children contains ibuprofen, which relieves pain and can help reduce fever for up to 8 hours6 and can be given to children from 3 months of age.