Prevention is the best option

Fever in children

Febre en nens a Vall d'Hebron

Fever is the body’s response against an infection and is the most common sign of illness. It is considered a fever when the body’s temperature is greater than 38°C  at the rectum or 37.5°C  in the armpit. Between 37 and 38 degrees is known as low-grade fever. A sensation of cold, discomfort and loss of appetite may all accompany a fever, but children normally tolerate fever well.


Fever is not an illness in itself, but the body’s defence response. Treatments for fever serve to alleviate the symptoms.


To find out if you have a fever, always use a thermometer. A digital thermometer is best. To use it, place it in the ill person’s armpit for approximately two minutes, until it beeps. In breastfeeding babies it can be placed in the rectum, but bear in mind that if done this way a fever is anything above 38°C.


What should I do if my child has a fever?

  • Give them juice or water
  • If they do not want to eat, do not force them to.
  • Keep your home at a comfortable temperature and avoid excessive clothing 

When do I need to use antipyretics?

If, despite having applied the above measures, the fever remains higher than 38ºC and the child is generally unwell, antipyretics may be administered.

The medication used most often is paracetamol or ibuprofen. Both can be administered in drops or syrup.


What do you need to bear in mind when administering antipyretics?

  • A fever does not always need to be lowered with antipyretics, only if the child is experiencing discomfort, which is normally between 38ºC and 38.5ºC.
  • The aim is not for the child to feel the same as they do when they do not have a fever, but just to make them more comfortable.
  • Use the antipyretic doses recommended by your paediatrician and make sure they are taken at the right times, even if the fever appears before the next dose is due.
  • It is better to administer antipyretics via the mouth (orally) than the anus (rectally). The body absorbs them better if taken orally.
  • It is not proven that alternating medication is more effective in treating fever and discomfort. And doing so may cause confusion when administering it, so it is advisable not do so regularly.
  • Ibuprofen can be used in children older than 6 months.
  • A paediatrician must examine children under 3 months before administering paracetamol.
  • It is not advisable to administer antipyretics to prevent reactions to vaccines.
  • Keep medication away from children.


When should I go to A&E?

  • If the baby is less than 3 months old.
  • If the child is very irritable, distressed or very sleepy.
  • If they are having convulsions.
  • If they complain of an intense headache and vomit several times.
  • If they are having respiratory difficulty.
  • If spots appear on the skin and do not disappear with pressure.
  • If their temperature is equal to or more than 39°C or persists for more than two days.

In summary, when we have an infection and the body raises our temperature, it causes what is known as a fever. Antipyretics do not cure the infection, but they can alleviate the symptoms. 

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