You knew this day would come eventually, and a quick rectal check of her temperature with the digital thermometer confirms your guess: Your baby has a fever. Don’t panic. Although the presence of fever likely means your child has a respiratory illness, such as a cold, sore throat or other infection, an elevated temperature is her body’s way of eliminating invading germs using the power of heat. Dealing with a fever can be scary, especially if this is your baby’s first one:
Base your actions on the temperature reading. If your baby is younger than 3 months and has a temperature of at least 100.4°F or her temperature exceeds 104 more than once, regardless of age, you should call her physician immediately, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Give medicine, if appropriate. If your child is older than 2 months, you can give him acetaminophen or ibuprofen to slow and reverse the fever. Check with your physician about proper dosage first. Medication may not always be necessary for fevers less than 102, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Look for serious symptoms. Are you changing your baby’s diaper less than normal? Reduced wetness may be a sign of dehydration—a concerning complication that warrants immediate medical attention. Other red flags that deserve swift action include crying without tears, a swollen soft spot on the head, trouble breathing, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures.
Prioritize comfort. Taking steps to keep your child comfortable will reduce stress for both of you. Don’t bathe her in cool water or bundle her up, both of which are counterproductive. Dress your baby in lightweight clothes and keep the home at a comfortable temperature. Offer plenty of fluids. Most importantly, be a calm, soothing presence. Your attentiveness and affection are what your little one needs most.
Given time, care and help from your physician, if necessary, your baby will beat the fever and return to his normal self—and you’ll be more confident in your ability to handle whatever parenthood challenges come your way.