When the children have a fever for the first time, the mother or father feels queasy. You regularly check their temperature and look after their condition. Even if you know that fever in babies happens all the time, this very first fever makes you feel the first deep fear as a mom.
Fever is always an alarm signal for parents, but fever per se is not a bad thing. On the contrary, it is a wonderful invention of Mother Nature. Fever is not a disease, but the very first defense mechanism of the body against viruses and bacteria. These can multiply more poorly at high temperatures and the body thus gains time to mobilize its defenses. Fever accelerates the processes in the body and thus supports the fight and the healing process.
What you can expect in this article
What to consider when your baby or toddler has a fever? And from which temperature it is fever at all? In addition to the symptoms and causes of fever in general and also of three-day fever in particular, this article will introduce you to the signals for fever and how you can support your child. In addition, you will learn how to take a fever correctly and where you can take the temperature of your child everywhere. In addition, you will receive advice on when it makes sense to let your child run a fever and when you should deliberately lower the fever. Last but not least, I describe when fever becomes a danger and how to deal with febrile convulsions.
Increased temperature or already fever?
Babies fever much more often and faster than adults. If your child has a higher temperature in the evening than in the morning, this is completely normal. In babies and toddlers, temperatures between 38 and 39 degrees are common and nothing unusual. If your child had a slight fever in the evening, he or she can be completely healthy the next morning without any further fever attacks or signs of illness.
- 36.5 to 37.5° Celsius is the normal body temperature of a healthy child.
- 37,6 to 38,0° Celsius is an elevated temperature.
- Fever starts at 38.0° Celsius. (When the child gets older, it is called a fever only from 38.5° Celsius).
- From 39° Celsius it is high fever.
An elevated temperature is not always a precursor to an infection or a fever. When your child has been running wild outside, body temperature goes up. Clothing that is too warm or a sleeping bag that is too thick can also raise your baby’s body temperature.
There are many reasons for fever. From an infection or gastrointestinal illness to a vaccination episode or three-day fever. Small children often have a fever when teething. Teething itself is not the trigger. But during teething, the immune system shuts down a bit, making children more susceptible to infections, which in turn promotes fever.
The three-day fever
Almost every child experiences this typical childhood illness by the end of the 3rd year of life. Once through the first year of life. sporadically it can occur in older children. It is a viral disease caused by herpes viruses (human herpes virus type 6, HHV 6). Three-day fever is transmitted by droplet infection through coughing or sneezing. The incubation period can be up to 17 days. However, there is one piece of good news: once you have overcome the infection, you have lifelong immunity.
The illness begins with a sudden high fever that lasts up to four days. The children sometimes appear seriously ill. Just as suddenly as it came, the fever disappears again. After that pale, red spots appear on the body. After about two to three more days, these also disappear. Sometimes the illness can be accompanied by diarrhea or vomiting. Visiting friends should be avoided, as three-day fever is very contagious.
How to recognize a fever?
Children have fevers on and off during their first six years of life. And there are always two indicators by which you can first determine that your child has a fever. These are the two processes in which you notice that something is not right.
Number 1: Your child is incredibly warm when cuddled. It is obligatory to put your hand on the child’s forehead and feel the temperature. In addition you feel in the neck and put on to the control with yourself still with the result of a daring assumption without security. This is the moment to pull out the thermometer.
Number 2: Your child is tired, grumpy and complaining. He has little desire, hangs on the sofa and is unusually quiet, after he was unusually grumpy before. This is the moment when you snuggle up with your child and you switch to the routine of number 1. Either way, it always ends up with the clinical thermometer and elevated temperature, if not already a fever.
Signals for fever
- red, hot face
- Cool, pale skin
- Tired eyes
- sleepy / listless
- querulous behavior
- no to little hunger
- Sometimes vomiting or diarrhea
- Altered crying patterns (in the baby)
- the child is sensitive to touch
But be careful: despite the fever, your child can still be in a good mood. The signals may occur in combination or singly or almost not at all.
How to support your child
With high fever your child loses a lot of liquid, therefore it is important to offer drinking again and again. It is best to have water, juice or tea every 30 minutes and encourage people to drink. You can offer the breast or a bottle of PRE more often to babies. If you are unsure whether your child is drinking enough fluids, write down the frequency of wet diapers.
If you have a fever, you sweat. It is therefore pleasant to be washed off with a lukewarm washcloth in the evening and to be put into fresh pajamas. Also, the bedding and any sleeping bag used should be washed regularly.
Hunger usually disappears with fever. You should not force your child to eat. Offer him easily digestible food. Yogurt or stewed fruit are good ways to get some nutrition into the child. When your child has a fever, it is best to let him or her eat whatever he or she likes. Here you as mother or father can be really only glad that it takes something to itself.
Rest and recuperation is a boon when the fever is high. Your child does not necessarily have to stay in bed, but a nice place to sleep during the day on the sofa or in the crib that you place close to you is restful and pleasant. The child is around you and still has its resting zone. When your child has a fever, he or she should not run around and exercise. This would only put additional strain on the body unnecessarily. Pay attention to quiet games and activities.
The right way to take a temperature
There are several ways to take your child’s temperature. All have advantages and disadvantages and above all different accuracies.
Where can you measure fever everywhere?
To get the most accurate reading, rectal measurement is recommended. It provides the most reliable body temperature. With babies this kind of measurement is usually unproblematic. Lay your baby on its back or side for this purpose. Hold the legs by the ankles so that your child does not unintentionally move wildly and injure himself while taking the temperature. A flexible measuring tip is also ideal for this. Put some cream or Vaseline on the tip of the thermometer. Start it and wait for the measurement sign. Now insert it very carefully one to two centimeters into your baby’s bottom. If your child finds it uncomfortable, talk to him calmly and gently. A music box can also be helpful. When the measurement is over, it starts to beep and you can slowly pull it out. Do not forget to clean it afterwards with alcohol or lukewarm water and soap.
Ear and forehead thermometers are highly recommended as indicators while your child is sleeping. However, you should be aware that they sometimes have deviations from the rectal measurement. Especially drafts and earwax can falsify the result of the measurement. However, it is still suitable as an indicator. Ear thermometers cannot be used on children under six months of age, as their ear canals are still too tiny.
Measuring in the mouth should only be done with older children and measuring under the armpit should also only be done from school age onwards. However, it must be noted that 0.5 degrees must be added.
Let it cool down or lower it?
Fever should not be lowered immediately per se. It is a useful defense reaction against viruses and bacteria. Only if your child suffers very much from the fever and is extremely weak, fever-reducing agents should be used from a temperature of 39 degrees (measured rectally) (especially with high fevers, prior consultation with the doctor’s office is extremely important).
If your child feels well for the most part, he or she may take a fever during the day without the need for medication.
Suppositories and fever juice are available to reduce fever. You will certainly find out quickly what your child tolerates best. Some children do not tolerate fever juice. You throw up several times after 15 minutes. The fever usually goes down anyway, but afterwards you have a lot of washing to do. Of course, there are the well-known calf compresses and pulse compresses as fever reducers for children over one year of age. You can use this as a support when the fever is very high. Please note that only lukewarm compresses may be used.
If you have a very high fever, I recommend that you keep a list or – if available – use the "save reading" function of your clinical thermometer. Regularly check the temperature and write down the administration of suppositories with the name of the medicine. Keep in close contact with the pediatrician, set an alarm clock for the night if necessary if the fever keeps going up with regularity, and have your child sleep in bed with you so you can be close to him or her and check the temperature at night if the fever gets really bad.
When does fever become a danger?
For newborns in the first weeks of life, fever must be observed already from 38 degrees. Since the ability to fever is not yet fully developed at this time, a more serious illness may already be behind it, despite only a slightly elevated temperature. If your child is unusually listless and apathetic, drinks little and only briefly and possibly even his skin is discolored, then see a doctor immediately.
At the latest on the 3rd day. Day fever you should consult a doctor. Especially if your child is particularly tired and drinks very little fluid. If the fever rises very high very quickly, a doctor should also be consulted immediately.
As a general rule, if a fever is accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, stiff neck, fainting, listlessness, complete refusal to drink, skin rashes, labored breathing, or simply a child who appears extremely ill, see a doctor immediately. If a febrile seizure has occurred, you should also go to the doctor. It is better to go to the doctor once too often than too little.
In most cases, the doctor can determine the cause of the fever by examining the child and the urine. Rarely, a blood sample or other measures are necessary.
The febrile seizure
A special feature of very rapidly rising fever is the occurrence of a febrile convulsion. This occurs in about three to five percent of children between six months and five years of age. The child rolls his eyes, limbs become stiff and may even twitch or suddenly go limp. The child loses consciousness for a short time and the lip area becomes bluish. Such a febrile seizure can last a few minutes. Once it is over, the child recovers quickly and has no memory of it. It is only very tired afterwards.
From a medical point of view, such febrile convulsions are rather harmless. For parents, however, it is usually a shock. It is important that you, as a parent, remain calm, even if this is incredibly difficult with the sight of your child in a convulsion. Try to calm your child and put him/her on the floor sideways. The airways should be clear and you must keep an eye on the face. If your child vomits, you must make sure that the vomit does not get into the lungs. Your child must not eat or drink during the convulsion. Call if necessary. Call the emergency doctor at the same time to get help if the febrile convulsion lasts unnaturally long or if other abnormalities occur.
After the seizure, measure the fever and possibly give a fever-reducing agent. In any case, your child must be examined by a pediatrician immediately after the seizure.