Fevers in Babies and Toddlers: All You Need to Know

This is the big fever guide, a one stop shop to teach you all about fevers and help you care for your little one!

Fever in small children is the clearest indication that something is wrong, especially if your baby has a fever above 39 °. But it is only a symptom and it is important that you observe your child to find out what may be the cause of the fever.

But bear in mind that in babies under 3 months, the part of the brain that regulates temperature is not fully developed, which means that fever can not be used alone as a measure of whether the child is ill.

The most important thing to look at is how your child reacts to the temperature. Is he active and playing? Or lathargic and not interested in eating?

Next, keep an eye on vomiting and diarrhea.

Finally, it is important to look for signs of pain. For example, a small child with an ear infection will typically grab at their ear.

Fever is the body’s defense

Viruses and bacteria die at too high temperatures, and therefore fever is a part of the body’s own defense against diseases. It is therefore quite natural that your child has a fever as long as it does not get too high.

The normal temperature of a child is 36.5-37.0 ° in the morning and 37.0-37.5 ° in the afternoon.

If the child is wearing many layers,wrapped warm or was just in their bed sleeping or if they have been very active, the temperature may be slightly higher.

High fever in baby

Infants typically get higher fevers than older children. This is because it is more difficult for them to sweat and get rid of the heat.

If your little one develops a high fever over 40 degrees, remove their clothes, remove the quilts and dab with a cool damp cloth. Also make sure that the temperature in the room is not too hot. If you need to, let in a bit of fresh air.

When should I call the out of hours doctor?

  • If the child seems lathargic and very tired
  • If the child does not want to drink and the diapers are dry
  • If the fever period lasts more than 4-5 days
  • If the child has fever cramps
  • If the child is stiff in the neck
  • If the child has rapid breathing
  • If the child has fever and cough for more than 3-4 days
  • If the child is clearly in pain but you don’t know the cause

Most importantly, always trust your own intuition. You know your child best. And if you feel that the only way you will feel at ease is by getting a professional opinion then you should do so. Better safe than sorry.

Call your own doctor tomorrow

A child under 6 months with a fever should always be assessed by a doctor.

A child under 2 years of age must also be seen by a doctor if he/she has a 39 ° fever or higher.

Fever after vaccination

When your child has just received his vaccination, the temperature can rise dramatically to about 40-41 degrees without the need to call the doctor. This is because the reason is known.

Here it is important that you keep an eye on your child, removing all their clothes except the diaper and letting them sleep under a thin blanket, as well as following the doctor’s instructions regarding how to care for them following the vaccination (Most doctors will have given you a leaflet to take home).

If the child’s fever is still very high the next morning, the diapers are dry or the child still seems very lathargic, you should call the doctor.

#1 day temperatures

There are several ways to measure body temperature:

  • rectal thermometer
  • Oral thermometer
  • Thermometer to the armpit
  • Ear Thermometer

The most accurate method is to measure the temperature in the rectum. Here you get the direct body temperature and you can not be cheated.

Now there is also the no touch thermometer! Read our review here: How safe and accurate are the no-touch thermometers?

Ear Thermometer

The temperature measurement in the ear should be done at a correct angle in the ear and it can be very hard to find- especially with very young children, and even more so when they are irritable.

Therefore, this method is not as reliable. If the ear thermometer shows a little fever, always use a rectalthermometer to find the exact temperature.

When measuring the temperature in the ear, bear in mind that the temperature in the ear can be temporarily higher because the child has been lying on a warm pillow or temporarily lower because the child has been out in the cold.

If you choose to measure the temperature in their ear, you should wait approximately 15 minutes after the child has woken up or has come inside if they have just been out. And preferably have several attempts.

TIP: As a rule of thumb, the temperature in the ear is generally always 0.5 degree lower in the ear than in the rectum.

Armpit Thermometer

If you measure the temperature in the armpit, it is approximately 1.0 degree lower than the rectum – and the thermometer should lie in the armpit for 10 minutes. 

Oral Thermometer

If you select this thermometer, the temperature is also 0.5 degree lower than the rectum.

And bear in mind that for a period after cold or hot beverages have been consumed, the measurement is not reliable.

The thermometer should be placed under the tongue for 3 minutes, which is a bit of a challenge with small children who may even be sick or nauseas.

Temperature measurement in the rectum

Doctors agree that the most accurate method of temperature measurement is done with a rectal thermometer.

However, it may feel uncomfortable for the child, which may already be a bit annoyed due to illness.

When measuring the temperature in the rectum, it can be easier to put the child on the pillow and lift up the child’s legs.

Lubricate with a little vaseline or ointment on the tip and gently push it into the rectum opening. The thermometer must be inserted approximately 1.5 centimeters in the rectum.

Hold the baby’s legs in the meantime to keep them still. It’s obviously not nice to be restrained, but it’s even more uncomfortable to get a fissure in the rectum because baby is objecting and wiggling around.

In your toddler who can lay still, the child can lay on the side with legs bent up in front of them – as in foster position.

A digital thermometer beeps when the temperature measurement is complete – and it is after approximately 30 seconds. If you use a non digital one, it should be held in the rectum for 2 minutes.

#2 Make a fever plan

If your child has more than 39 degrees of fever, you should undress the child and make sure the room is not too hot.

Take the duvet out of the duvet cover and let your child sleep only with the cover.

Make sure your child is drinking as much as possible, breastfeeding or eating a little.

Help yourself

A sick child equals long sleepless nights, lots of comforting and very little time for yourself, so it’s a good idea to lay an emergency plan.

Make sure to fill the fridge with food you can easily eat and drink. If you are alone, get a friend or grandparent to shop. It’s alright to ask for help when your baby is ill!

And don’t forget to treat yourself to a little chocolate when your energy is at its lowest.

And remember, when there is a child ill at home, the same rule applies as on the airplane: You must help yourself first before you can help others – even when it comes to your child.

Sugar water for infants

You probably did not know this but sugar can actually provide pain relief, and is a good alternative to painkillers, especially for infants that can not receive medication yet.

Here is the easy recipe on how to make sugar water:


Sugar (3 tea spoons)

Water (100ml)

How to: 

You add three teaspoons of sugar to the glass container.

Then you add 100ml of boiling water to the container.

Lastly you shake it up until the water has absorbed the sugar, and you leave it to cool.

This is good up to 24 hours. After that point, you will have to make it again.

Voila there you have it, it could not be easier!


A child under 2 years of age must never receive pain medication without consulting your doctor. Therefore, it is very important that you call your doctor and ask for advice before giving your child something.

When you call the doctor he will ask about the weight of the child, and here it is important to be accurate as inaccurate information and medication dosages can be dangerous.

Weight and dosage

You weigh your child by first weighing yourself on the scales. Then you get up with your child in your arms. Minus the first number from the last, and you have the weight of your child.

If your child is over 2 years old you can follow dosage instructions on the labels.

50% of children get a wrong dose

A look at  70 English and American studies published in the  Journal of Advanced Nursing shows that nearly 50% of all children get the wrong dose of medication when they are ill because the parents do not know the exact weight of the child.

An underdose means that the medicine does not work while an overdose can give your child poisoning.

Therefore, it is important that you weigh your child when they become ill, as well as checking the labels or calling the doctor.

Antibiotics for children

If your child is to have Penicilin (antibiotics), it is a good idea to mix it up with something your child likes. For example, breast milk, cocoa, yogurt or such. This makes it much easier to get down. And down it must go before your child can feel better.

But it is worth the struggle as it acts quickly and your child will feel much better within just 6-12 hours.

#3 Care for fever-affected children

A sick child needs lots of love and intimacy, so clear the calendar and prepare yourself for a few days, where there is nothing but snuggling, cartoons and nursing on the program.

Food and drinks

It is important that your little one eats and drinks, even if it takes some persuasion.

For infants under 6 months, breast milk or formula is best. But if it’s completely impossible then a little sugar can be a pretty good way to persuade your child to drink a little.

But do not forget! Never more than 100 ml sugar water a day.

Bigger children can get what they want. Give them a drink, some fruits and vegetables, which are both soft to eat and contain easily absorbed calories.

Games and activities

The child does not have to be kept in bed, let them play if they wish to.

If the temperature is falling and you can see your child is eager, it might also be nice to get a little fresh air and go for a short walk outside.

Monitoring progress

Keep an eye on whether your child is getting better. Of course this is a no-brainer, any parent will be watching their little one like a hawk yearning for signs of progress. Both for the sake of the child but also for the sake of getting back to their normal routines.

A bacterial infection may well lead onto a viral infection, so even if your child tested negative for bacterial infection 4 days ago , but still has a very high fever, it may be that they will now test positive.

This is because the child is more prone to infections when it already has a weakened immune system.

#4 Back to the nursery

Your child is ready to go back to daycare when there is no longer a fever, and they have regained the energy to play with their friends rather than sit on the couch with you.

Try to get a day off at work the first day after they are better, as your child may still be tired, having a bad day or you may be called in to go and get him/her.

Build the immune system

Your child’s immune system is only fully developed when they are around 5 years old. This is due to the lack of antibodies that only form as a result of common childhood diseases.

Therefore, you can see all of your child’s illnesses as one more step towards a strong and healthy child – Good training for building the immune system!

Don’t forget to save this guide so you always have it at hand when the temperatures rise!



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