High fever in toddlers is a common complaint, and it is one of the main reasons mothers take their little ones to pediatricians. It accounts for about 30% of pediatric emergency visits. Many parents are concerned about complications brought by high fever. However, many people dispute that fever has biological value by believing in myths like high fever can cause brain damage and febrile seizures.
You should never take any chances when it comes to fever in babies. You should also not panic but find ways to reduce the fever and calm the toddler down. Fever can be caused by many different things such as infections, and if not well managed it can cause death in extreme cases.
The practice of using antipyretics is on the rise – both at home and in pediatric clinics – without getting to know the cause of the fever. There is also a big difference between people’s perception and the scientific evidence.
Studies show that when your child gets a fever is a good thing. It shows that the child’s immune system is working well to fight the infection attacking the immune system. The toddlers’ temperature rises when the white blood cells are attacking the virus or the bacteria. When this is happening, the brain commands the body to raise the temperature. The article will discuss the causes, symptoms and treatment options of high fever in toddlers.
Table of Contents
- How to Tell If Your Toddler Has a Fever
- First Response to High Temperature in Your Toddler
- The Big Picture of Toddler Fever
- What Causes Fever in Toddlers
- Guide on How to Monitor Temperature in a Toddler
- Symptoms That Your Child Show During a High Fever
- How to Break Fever in Toddlers
- When to See a Doctor for Toddler Fever
- Must Know Things About Toddlers Temperature
Most mothers are keen and can tell if there is a slight change in temperature on their toddlers. Below are things that can show you if your baby has a high fever.
- Your baby feels hot than usual on touching their forehead or stomach. Also, breastfeeding moms can tell when your little one is breastfeeding by the high temperatures in the baby’s mouth.
- In case the baby is sweating and is in a cranky mood.
- If the toddler has flushed cheeks.
If you suspect that your toddler has a high temperature, use a thermometer to confirm that. Many caregivers and mothers are used to taking the temperature of their toddlers using their palm. But, how accurate are they? How can they know if the temperature has gone way above the expected limit? In short, they make decisions by prediction which is wrong.
Also, it is important to invest in a good quality thermometer. Thermometers are cheap and readily available in retail shops. It is also advisable to avoid buying forehead thermometers as they give inaccurate temperature results.
First Response to High Temperature in Your Toddler
The way you handle your toddler greatly depends on their age and the temperature reading on the thermometer. If your toddler is three months and below, and the thermometer reads over 100.4F, this warrants for an emergency call to the pediatrician. Toddlers of this age do not have a developed immune system and are vulnerable to serious infections such as meningitis or pneumonia. A rise in body temperature can be a symptom.
Experts advice that if your toddler is between three to six month, and the temperatures rise above 100F, they should immediately be examined by a pediatrician to rule out chances of life-threatening infections. Once your toddler is over six months, you should call your doctor when the temperature hits 103F. In case the toddler has a cough, running nose, stuffy nose, diarrhea, chills or even body aches, call your doctor when their temperature reads 102F.
The Big Picture of Toddler Fever
Fever is just a sign that something is wrong with your toddlers’ health. It is necessary for you to pay close attention to other symptoms. In case your toddler has a temperature below 101F and a running nose, you have nothing to worry about since it could be a common cold. The cold will disappear in about four days.
Seasonal and H1N1 flu can have a big blow on your toddler and are the main culprits to high fever. The flu causes your child’s health to change all of a sudden. For example, your child can be active today, but unable to get out of bed tomorrow.
Flu can also be risky to kids with chronic medical conditions like asthma or diabetes. In such a case, your child will need agent medical attention. If your toddler has no complications and based on the symptoms, the doctor can rule out that the child is suffering from flu. The doctors will, therefore, advice to let the toddler stay indoors until the fever is gone.
Infections are the common causes of fever in toddlers. They are responsible for upper respiratory infections and colds in toddlers. Fortunately, these infections often don’t last long after treatment.
Fever occurs when the body is naturally responding to infections. Surprisingly, it may be beneficial for the toddler when it comes to fighting the infection. Some infections are brought by bacteria or viruses. In case of infections, you will be required to give the toddler antibiotics.
The infections caused by bacteria in toddlers include urinary tract infections, ear and throat infections, blood infections, pneumonia and meningitis. Streptococcus bacteria, for instance, is the cause of sore throats in toddlers. If you don’t treat the infection with the appropriate antibiotics in time, there is a chance of development of rheumatic fever or heart damage in extreme cases.
There also other factors that cause fever in children. They include allergic reactions to drugs, tumors, gastrointestinal diseases, or even chronic joint inflammation.
As a mother, it is critical to know how to monitor the fever of your child and not just rush to the doctor each time your toddler’s temperature rises a little bit. Most of the time, you will learn that you don’t need to visit a medical facility to handle slight fevers. Some toddler’s fevers are not serious and can be managed at home. For example; fever that is caused by teething.
Guide on How to Monitor Temperature in a Toddler
- Always use a digital thermometer when taking the temperature of your toddler. Digital thermometers are the most suitable for taking temperature since they do not have mercury. Mercury can be poisonous especially when exposed to the child’s skin.
When taking the temperature of a child between the ages of 0 to 3 years, it is advisable to use the rectal method as it gets an accurate reading. Also, you can consider temporal thermometer which uses infrared to measure the temperature of the temporal artery on the forehead. The thermometer is quite costly, but you still have other options like a regular, oral, or even tympanic thermometer. Tympanic thermometer is an ear thermometer. It is, however, suitable for children over 18months of age.
- Cuddling your child is the most effective way to position your toddler when taking the temperature. When you cuddle them on your lap, you can take their temperature easily since they will be more cooperative and stay calm. Besides, breastfeeding and storytelling is a good way to distract the child
- Ensure you check the temperatures of your child regularly. You should get new temperature readings at an interval of at most four hours. Take records of these values to enable you to monitor the rise and fall of the temperature. An average temperature should be up to 37.2C, or 99F. Some low-grade fevers are up to 38.3C high fever reads 39.7C or 103.5F on the thermometer. High-grade fevers are supposed to be handled by medical professionals especially when they do not come down even after medication.
- Know your child’s daily temperature variations. Normally, your toddler’s temperature is supposed to be lowest when they wake up in the morning and highest when they go to sleep. If the temperature of your child rises by a degree during these two periods, there should not be a reason to worry
- Ensure you keep your child comfortable at all times when they have a fever. By keeping them comfortable, it means making sure they stay hydrated all the times. Also, offer them a lukewarm bath as you pay keen attention to the behavior of your child.
The common symptoms of fever in toddlers are runny noses, an itchy rash, or stomach aches. On serious cases, your child can develop a stiff neck. At this point, you can be confused whether to call a doctor or visit an emergency room. One thing to keep in mind is if your child shows signs of weakness, you will need to call your doctor immediately.
If your child is also hot and flushed, seek further medical advice immediately. However, it is not always necessary to take your child to the hospital every time they get a high fever. It is advisable not to concentrate more on the thermometer readings but take note of the toddler’s symptoms. Here are more symptoms that present themselves when a toddler has a high fever.
A Bad Headache
While minor headaches go away with over the counter drugs, bad headaches may prove stubborn. Sometimes, the child may not feed properly due to a bad headache. In case the headache is severe enough to incapacitate the child, then it needs immediate evaluation. Some common causes of a headache can be tight muscles in the scalp or a problem related to the brain. However, a headache due to neurological symptoms needs a quick attention of the doctor.
Do not take too much interest on a rash on the arms or feet of your child. However, if the rash covers their entire body, make sure you examine it immediately to see whether it warrants urgent medical attention. A non-blanching rash can be an indicator of a medical emergency like sepsis or meningitis especially when accompanied by fever.
How to Break Fever in Toddlers
It is quite natural that every parent would want to treat their child’s fever when it goes up. When you decide to give medication to bring down the fever, you only mask the situation. Once the medicine wears off, the situation goes back to square one. Therefore, it is vital to treat the causal factor of fever than trying to bring down the fever.
To successfully treat your child’s temperature you need concentrate on how the child is feeling, behaving and not what the thermometer is reading. Sometimes, letting your child’s fever wear off is important. It helps the toddler’s body to fight off infection. Also, there is no harm in bringing the fever down to make your child calm and relaxed.
Medical experts advice that you should let mild fever run its course. Fever in a toddler, however, can be frustrating. Slight fever does not necessarily require treatment and it is imperative to ensure comfort for your child by working to reduce the slight fevers. In more serious cases, high fever can be life-threatening and should always be checked by a pediatrician. Here are some treatments for your toddler’s fever.
Give the Baby a Warm Bath
Use of medication is not the only solution to high fever in toddlers. You can use lukewarm water to bath your baby with the intention of cooling them. Never use cold water or ice baths as they can make the situation to look ugly. Cold water only makes your child shiver which can result in high temperature afterward.
Warm Water gets rid of heat from the body a bit fast than air. This principle, therefore, makes giving a warm bath an effective way of mitigating fever. It also acts fast in reducing fever than giving your toddler medication. Also, you can use a warm bath while you are waiting for medication like acetaminophen or other pain relievers to work. Always use lukewarm water where the temperature of the water is slightly lower than the body temperature.
Avoid alcohol rubs as they can cause intoxication, seizures or coma. Always make sure that your child is always hydrated. If the child is vomiting or is passing loose stool, give the baby an oral therapy drink to replace electrolytes and also stay hydrated. Also, it is important to ensure that your child is in light and breathable cloths.
Encourage Your Toddler to Take Lots of Fluids
High fever can lead to dehydration that can lead to a serious medical condition. It is, therefore, essential to offer plenty of fluids to your toddler. Pure water is usually the best fluid to give your baby. However, there are other options like natural fruit juices that are diluted with water. Also, you can give toddlers over one year iced non-caffeinated teas like peppermint and chamomile teas.
Dress the Toddler Lightly
It is important to dress your toddler lightly as heavy dressing can increase body temperature. Also, dress them in loose clothes as they give room for air circulation. If your child complains about feeling cold, get a thin blanket to cover them. Again, a mechanical or electrical fan can be of much help in taking heat away from your baby’s skin. If you opt for a fan, ensure you monitor your child constantly to avoid overcooling.
You can reduce a high fever on your toddler by placing a cold cloth on their forehead, groin, and the armpits. This helps cool the baby’s temperature by cooling the blood vessels that are close to the skin.
If you are not comfortable with giving your toddler a warm bath at his current condition, you can sponge bath them with lukewarm water. This will help reduce the fever.
Offer Ice Cubes
If your toddler is above one year, you can give them ice cubes to suck. This will not only help them get hydrated but also reduce the fever.
When to See a Doctor for Toddler Fever
If your toddler is under three months of age and develops a fever, you must seek the doctor advice immediately. This is because, at that age, it is not easy to tell whether or not they have a serious illness. For babies between the ages of three months to one year, fever may indicate a serious illness that must be attended immediately. Always seek medical attention if your baby has a fever with a combination of the below symptoms.
- Breathing difficulties
- Looks sicker than before
- Persistent vomiting
- Frequent bouts of diarrhea
- Persistent headache
- Lack of appetite.
The moment your child becomes severely lethargic, unresponsive, or has double breathing, then you must take the child to emergency immediately. Also, when your child experiences a febrile seizure, eyes rolling, involuntary jerking of the body, or loss of consciousness, you should visit a doctor immediately. A febrile seizure can last up to two minutes and can be scary, but not necessarily harmful.
To be in a position to handle your baby when they have a fever, here are things that you must know before the occurrence.
Rectal Temperatures Give Accurate Result
Many people do not know that renal temperature is the most accurate for toddlers under the age of three months. Only rectal thermometers can give 100% accurate temperatures than ear and forehead thermometer. Never at any given time use a broken glass renal thermometer. If the thermometer is cracked, the mercury could leak into the toddler’s body which is harmful to their health.
The renal thermometers give precise readings- not too high or too long. This enables the users to get accurate temperature readings and avoid unnecessary tension.
High Fever is Fatal for Babies Under Three Months
It can be fatal for a baby below three months to have a temperature of 100.4 F. If not well managed it could lead to fever seizures. Therefore, you need to see a doctor immediately. In case you cannot reach your doctor, rash to the toddler to the emergency room for immediate treatment. Do not give the baby anything to reduce the fever. You do not want to mask the symptoms before the baby is treated.
Toddlers below three months have a thin cell coating between the blood vessels and the nervous system that make it easy for bacterial or virus to penetrate and cause damage. Also, young toddlers do not show when the infection is full blown.
Use Medicine as a Last Option
We cannot deny that medicine can help in reducing the high fever. When you administer medication to a toddler with a high fever, you only mask the underlying condition. For example, if a baby has a bacterial infection that is causing the fever, taking medicine to the lower temperature will not solve the situation. After the effects of the medicine are worn off, the fever will be back with a bang.
Rather tha using medication, you can help your baby by dressing them lightly and also keeping them hydrated as you make arrangements for going to the hospital. It is, therefore, important to give them plenty of breast milk. You should also open the windows or use a fan if the room is stuffy and warm
If the baby is still uncomfortable, you can administer the fever relieving medicine as you make arrangements for getting them checked up. Do not ever give your toddler medication that is not prescribed by a doctor. Here are safety guidelines you can follow while administering the medicine.
- Toddlers between three to six months should be given acetaminophen but do not give ibuprofen.
- At the age of six months, babies can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- The dose of the fever relieving medicine is determined by the weight of the baby and not age.
- Never give your baby Aspiring since it causes Reye’s syndrome – fatal liver disease.
Fever in toddlers is manageable. As long as you treat the causal factor, you do not have to worry about anything. It is important to note that you should never give your toddler medication without the doctor’s prescription.