For new parents, experiencing baby’s “firsts” can be pretty exhilarating—or, in some cases, a bit alarming...like their first fever. Thanks to their still-developing immune systems, babies are prone to getting sick, and it’s only natural to worry when you notice they feel warm. In fact, 75 percent of first-time moms reported feeling helpless upon realizing their child was feverish, and 87 percent have been kept awake at night for fear of how a fever could impact their child, according to a recent survey from Braun, the makers of Thermoscan 5 digital ear thermometer. To help you put any concerns to rest, read on to learn some common myths and truths about baby fevers. Armed with the facts, you’ll be ready to handle that first temperature like a pro.
Myth: Anything over 100℉ is a fever.
Reality: The temperature that determines a fever is dependent on a child’s age.
It’d be easy to have one universal fever threshold, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, when it comes to what’s “normal” and what’s not, it’s not so simple. A lot of variables can affect how you interpret a temperature reading, including baby’s age and the method used to take the temperature. While it’s good to know these factors, what’s most important is how your child looks and acts, not the exact number on the thermometer.
Myth: Call the doctor at the first sign of fever.
Reality: If baby is past the newborn stage, an elevated temperature above your child’s typical baseline doesn’t mean it’s necessarily an urgent matter.
When it comes to babies under 3 months, you should contact your pediatrician or seek immediate medical care at the first sign of a fever since infants have weaker immune systems. But little ones over 3 months can generally have a bit of an elevated temperature for a day or two before it’s considered a high fever, according to the US National Library of Medicine. (This number will vary slightly depending on the type of thermometer you use; check package instructions.) Regardless of baby’s age and the number on the thermometer, you should always contact your pediatrician if you have concerns, notice your child is visibly weak or limp, has any changes in their breathing or coloring, or exhibits other symptoms.
Myth: You should retake baby’s temperature often.
Reality: It’s a good idea to take a new reading if you note a change in their behavior or appearance, or before giving baby medicine to make sure it’s needed.
You might be tempted to take baby’s temperature every 10 minutes once you notice they’re warm, but it’s not necessary. If they seem to be getting sicker, or wake themselves up in the middle of the night, it may be a good time to take a new reading. Otherwise, as long as they aren’t exhibiting any other symptoms, try not to disrupt their routine to take their temperature or give them medicine—it’s more important that baby feels comfortable and like everything is normal.
Myth: You should always treat a fever.
Reality: Fevers should always be closely monitored, but that doesn’t mean you need to give baby medicine.
In fact, you shouldn’t give baby infant fever reducers like acetaminophen until they’re over 6 months and you’ve run it by the pediatrician first. If baby’s eating and sleeping normally, maintaining typical activity levels and not showing signs of pain or discomfort, you can start with non-medicinal remedies to help them stay comfortable. These include keeping their room a bit cooler than usual, giving them a lukewarm sponge bath, and making sure they’re drinking extra fluids.
Myth: Any fever is a bad fever.
Reality: An elevated temperature can simply mean the body is fighting off infection or illness.
While a fever can be cause for concern, it’s a symptom, not an illness. The concern should be whether or not there may be an underlying illness, rather than just on the fever itself. And think of the silver lining: It’s evidence your child’s developing immune system is learning to adjust and respond to the world around them.
Published January 2019