What exactly is fever?

A fever is also known as a high body temperature and is a normal reaction to illness or infection. A child’s normal body temperature is around 37°C. A temperature above 38°C is considered a mild fever, and a temperature above 39°C is considered a high fever.

What is a high temperature for a child?

When taking your child’s temperature it’s important to know that a temperature reading can vary slightly depending on where you’re measuring your child’s temperature and the type of thermometer used. Here is a guide to normal body temperature ranges when measured at different body sites, but remember it’s always best to check the manufacturing information of your own individual thermometer:

Site of Measurement Normal Body Temperature
Rectal 36.32 – 37.76°C
Mouth 35.73 – 37.41°C
Under the arm (axilla) 35.01– 36.93°C
Ear 35.76 – 37.52°C

If you find your child does have a fever, you might also notice they:

  • Have flushed cheeks and feel warm or hot to touch
  • Have a faster heart rate and breathing rate
  • Look unwell and refuse to eat or drink
  • Are more fussy and less active

What causes fever?

A higher temperature can mean that your body's immune system is fighting an infection and colds are one of the most common causes of fever in children – children get around six to twelve colds a year. Some children also develop a fever after vaccination.

What’s the best way to measure their temperature?

You can use a thermometer to take your child’s temperature– just make sure you read the thermometer’s instructions to know where it’s best to take on the body, and for how long to leave the thermometer in place.

How can you relieve your child’s fever?

If the fever is making your child uncomfortable, reducing it can help them feel better.

Between doses of an analgesic designed specifically for children, such as Nurofen for Children, keep offering small drinks of water or milk.

When does your child need to see a doctor?

Although most fevers last just a few days, they can be difficult days for both you as a parent and your child. You can help your child feel more comfortable by dressing them lightly and giving them frequent fluids. If your child is distressed, you can give over-the-counter pain and fever relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Nurofen for Children contains ibuprofen, which relieves pain and can help reduce fever for up to 8 hours*. With your loving care, most children will soon be back to their normal, bubbly selves.

Remember that fever is a normal way for your child to fight an infection but if your child is under 3 months old with a fever, or if they are 3-6 months with a high fever (above 39°C), it’s important to be cautious and always see your doctor. This is because babies are not as good at fighting off infection as older children.

Regardless of the age of your child, seek medical help urgently if they have a very high fever (over 40°C), if they seem to be getting sicker or don’t seem to improve after a couple of days, or if they have a fever along with any of the following symptoms:

  • Uncontrollable shivering or shaking
  • Severe headache or pain that doesn’t get better after taking pain relievers
  • Difficulty breathing, or unusual breathing
  • Getting confused, unusually drowsy or you can’t wake them up properly
  • Seem floppy or complain of leg pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • A worrying rash that doesn’t disappear when you press on it
  • Blue lips and tongue
  • Light is hurting their eyes
  • Refusing to drink much
  • Not doing a wee
  • Diarrhoea
  • Sore throat or joint pains
  • An unusual high-pitched cry

 

If you are worried about your child and their fever for any reason, be sure to seek medical advice. 

*Autret-Leca et al 2007.