Key points to bear in mind
- Fever is very common in young children. It is due to the body fighting infection.
- More than 60% of parents with children aged between 6 months and 5 years say their child has had one.
- It's usually caused by a minor viral infection, such as a cough or cold, and can normally be treated at home.
- In children under 5, a fever is considered to be a temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or above.
- If you suspect your child has a fever, you should check their temperature with a thermometer.
- Safe, cheap digital thermometers are available from your local pharmacy, supermarket or online retailers.
Read more about how to take your child's temperature.
Get more tips on looking after a sick child.
Medicines and fever
You do not need to treat every temperature with a medicine.
If your child seems distressed, consider giving them children's paracetamol or ibuprofen. These should not be given together.
Paracetamol can be given to babies from 2 months old. Ibuprofen is suitable for babies aged 3 months or over who weigh more than 5kg (11lbs).
Always check the instructions on the bottle or packet carefully, and never exceed the recommended dose.
What to do if you're worried
If you're worried about your baby or child, call your GP practice.
If the practice is closed, call NHS 111 or contact your GP out-of-hours service – there will be a phone number on your GP's answerphone.
Remember: always get medical advice if:
- Your baby is under 3 months old and they have a temperature of 38°C (101°F) or higher
- Your baby is 3 to 6 months old and has a temperature of 39°C (102°F) or higher
- You think your child is not drinking well or may be dehydrated. For a baby, this means that they are taking less than half of their normal feeds and having less than two wet nappies a day.
- Your child develops a red rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over it
- Your child has a fit (convulsion)
- Your child is crying constantly and you can't console or distract them, or the cry doesn't sound like their normal cry (such as high pitched)
- The fever lasts for more than 5 days
- Your child's health is getting worse or you are concerned
Information drawn from NHS Choices
For more information on the use of paracetamol for mild or moderate pain in children, please visit the Medicines for Children website.
Dr Damian Roland of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:
"There is often a knee-jerk response that if you have a fever you must have paracetamol, but that is not necessarily the case.
“If your child is distressed because they have a fever then you should give them something for that distress. If your child is very happy and very well, the fever itself isn’t doing them any harm and you don’t need to give them paracetamol just for the fever.
“The RCPCH advises giving the minimum necessary medication to your child to achieve the best possible effect.”