What should you do when your baby has a fever?

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I will never forget the first time my newborn child had a fever. She was just five months old at the time. It was 1:32 in the morning and I heard crying on the baby monitor. Both my husband and I, well-accustomed to sleepless nights, were instantly awake.

We sprinted down the hall to her room, where we found the most important person in our lives red-faced and screaming, her tiny, balled fists flailing helplessly in the air. I picked her up and rocked her back and forth, but to no avail. Her skin felt hot to the touch and nothing I did seemed to calm her.

Baby with fever

Maybe it was because she had been a premature baby and we were accustomed to being extra careful with her. Maybe it was because it had been a difficult birth, and it felt like such a miracle to have her in the first place. Or maybe it was just because we were parents and our little girl was hurt, but couldn’t tell us what was wrong.

Within minutes, we were in the car on the way to the hospital. My husband drove, his knuckles white as he clenched the steering wheel. I kept whispering to her, “Everything’s going to be okay.”

Thankfully, everything was okay. Our daughter was fine.

Still, I understand just how scary it is. The first thing I did was talk to the doctors and learn more about babies and fevers, so that I wouldn’t feel so powerless the next time. Here are some things that I learned:

  1. Fever can be a natural, healthy response. As frightening as they are, fevers are actually a sign that the body’s immune system is working. The fever should automatically start to cool off at around 106 F.
  2. There are different kinds of fevers. Bacterial and viral fevers are not the same. Viral fevers tend to subside within three days and cannot be treated with antibiotics. Bacteria-induced illnesses, on the other hand, can and should be. Talk to your doctor and see what they recommend, especially if the fever goes on for more than three days.
  3. For babies under three months old, fevers pose a serious risk. Very young babies don’t exhibit the same signs and symptoms of illness as older ones, meaning that a fever might be an indication that something is already very wrong. Call the hospital immediately in this case and make sure that they know how young your baby is.
  4. Rectal temperature readings are the most accurate. They may not be fun for either the parent or the baby, but this is the most effective way to get an accurate reading.
  5. Medications are not the only solution. Before turning to medications to combat a high temperature, try the old-fashioned method. Gently dab your baby with sponge soaked in tepid water. It won’t always solve the problem, but it can often help. If you do use medications, avoid ibuprofin if your infant is younger than six months.

Expecting Expats is the online resource for parents in and around Thailand.

We provide lifestyle and medical content to our visitors, with new content posted daily. Our lifestyle contributors are themselves expat moms who share their experiences and lessons learned through blog articles. We also provide medical content from our partner doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Articles of interest span from before pregnancy through the toddler years and cover medical, behavioral and cognitive issues.

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