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Child Development & Parenting: Infants (0-2)
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Common Baby Medical Concerns - Fever

Angela Oswalt, MSW

Fevers are not diseases themselves, but symptoms of another disease, but they can cause the most concerns in caregivers. If parents or caregivers think that the baby feels warm to the touch, they should take the baby's temperature. The most accurate way to take a baby's temperature is to do so rectally, with a glass thermometer. To make this procedure as easy as possible, position the baby stomach down on a changing table or lap to stabilize them, while carefully inserting the well-lubricated thermometer tip one half to one inch inside the baby's rectum. Hold the thermometer in place for three minutes by stabilizing it between the second and third fingers while cupping the baby's buttocks. Once again, caregivers can use songs and talking to help soothe and entertain babies during this uncomfortable time. Never force a baby to have a temperature taken rectally. Another way to take a baby's temperature is to hold the thermometer under the baby's arm and add up to two degrees. Ear thermometers are not reliable in babies under the age of one year.

thermometerBabies have a fever if their temperature is above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit/38 degrees Celsius. Report any fever in infants under the age of three months to a doctor. It's not how high a fever goes that should concern caregivers, but rather how babies react to the fever and to the treatment that should warrant concern. If babies continue to interact and play, eat, and sleep, and if they seem to respond to fever-reducing measures, monitor the fever for a few hours and wait to call the pediatrician until daytime hours. When babies have a fever, appear and act sick, and do not respond to fever-reducing treatments, there is more of a concern. If infants under three months of age are lethargic, drowsy, not eating, and generally look and act sick while having a fever, call the doctor immediately.

To treat or to monitor a fever, caregivers can do several things. They can adjust the environment to the baby's temperatures. Remove a layer or two of clothing or unbundle the baby, and make sure to give them plenty of fluids, either breast milk or formula for infants or juice, water, and clear liquids to older babies. Parents and caregivers can also give fever-reducing medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as directed by the doctor or medication label. These medications come in baby-friendly formulas such as infant drops, children's liquid, and chewable tablets. Caregivers can give the baby a soothing bath in lukewarm water that is neither too hot nor too cold. Parents should call the doctor anytime they are in doubt or feel that these methods are not easing the fever or the discomfort.