Caring for a baby with a fever is a hard scenario to navigate, especially if you’re a first-time mom. And it’s enough to leave you feeling overwhelmed and helpless at the same time. With so much information out, from the internet to Facebook groups, you can become suffocated with advice about home remedies and which medicines to give. However, this guide will cut through the noise and give you all the information you need to safely treat and lower your baby’s fever.
What Causes A Fever
A fever is the body’s physiological response to some kind of underlying illness, such as a bacterial or viral infection. And according to recent research it is thought that this response helps mobilize the immune system so it can clear out these infections within the body.
When it comes to infants, many times a fever is caused by one of these illnesses:
- ear infections
- respiratory infections such as RSV and Croup
- viral throat infection
Remember fever, in and of itself, is not an illness or a disease. So in order to effectively treat your baby’s fever you’ll want to consider the underlying cause.
If the fever is due to a bacterial infection- such as an ear infection- then you may need to treat the cause with a course of antibiotics prescribed by your child’s pediatrician. However, if the cause is due to a viral infection, such as the cold or a flu then the best approach is to help keep your child as comfortable as possible.
While there are certainly more serious causes for a fever- autoimmune disorders, cancer- these are less likely. Although, if you do suspect a more serious cause you’ll want to reach out to your child’s pediatrician right away.
Benefits Of A Fever
Over the last few decades the traditional course of action has been to provide a fever reducing medications the instance a fever is detected. This was the result of what is now called ‘fever phobia’– the unrealistic and exaggerated misconception of parents regarding a fever. Parents would fear fever related complications such as febrile seizures and provide medications to prevent them from affecting their children.
However, according to the National Institute of Health, febrile seizures only occur in about 2 to 5 percent of children. And recent research suggests that a fever is actually beneficial when fighting off illnesses.
Yet many parents still associate the height of a fever with the severity of the illness. When in fact there is no correlation between the two. Your baby could be fighting off a serious infection but only present with a low grade fever (100.4 degrees F) or vice versa.
This is important to note, because many times the number on the thermometer will influence the course of action you take. Instead, the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) advises that you treat your baby with the goal of keeping them comfortable rather than helping them maintain a normal temperature.
Keeping Baby Comfortable
You may notice that your baby has a low grade fever (100.4 to 102 degrees F) but is otherwise acting normal, which can often be the case. Normally, a fever itself begins to cause discomfort once it starts to reach 103 to 104 degrees.
Here are treatments to use if your baby is showing signs of discomfort:
- Provide plenty of fluids. If they are having diarrhea or vomiting it’s important that you keep your baby hydrated. You can offer them breast milk or formula. If you are feeling concerned you may also give them an Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) such as Pedialyte or Enfalyte
- Keep them cool. Place a cool compress and their forehead or give them a bath. This is a way to help them feel cool and relaxed.
- Offer them time and space to sleep. It’s likely that your baby will be fussy so try and cancel any unnecessary plans. Also, provide them with the space they need to comfortably sleep uninterrupted.
- Give them snuggles. Your baby is probably suffering from all kinds of aches and pains. Help them feel comfortable by giving them snuggles and keeping them close. This may be the perfect time to cosleep.
- Dress your child in comfortable clothing. You don’t want to overdress your baby because that could cause their temperature to rise even further. But you also want to make sure they aren’t under dressed which could cause shivering. Shivering in turn could cause the body to raise it’s temperature even further. So instead, it’s best to opt for light cotton clothing.
- Give them medicine. if your baby is just plain miserable, then it may be time to administer some form of fever reducing medicine. Reach out to your child’s pediatrician to get the proper dosage. And remember that infants under 6 months old should not be given Ibuprofen.
What Not To Do
When searching the internet you may come across an array of home remedies. And while some are harmless- putting potatoes in your baby’s socks- others can cause serious and unintended consequences. Here are examples of home remedies you need to avoid:
- Rubbing Alcohol baths. According to Children’s MD “It can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin and cause alcohol poisoning.”
- Homeopathic Treatments. One popular Homeopathic treatment for baby fevers has included the ingredient Belladonna. However, Belladonna is a very poisonous plant and with a lack of regulations surrounding the supplement industry there’s no way to know for sure the dosage of Belladonna in such treatments.
- Vicks VapoRub on the feet. Many parents swear by this trick. But unfortunately, according to Healthline, the over the counter rub may not be safe for children under 2 (and may have side effects for children over 2). Instead, they recommend looking at a non-medicated soothing rub that has ingredients such as eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender to help your baby relax.
If you are planning on using a home remedy, it’s important that you research the application and ingredients. A good place to start is by reaching out to your pediatrician’s office or speaking with a nurse line for guidance on whether or not a treatment is safe for your baby.
When To Call A Doctor
There are certain situations when your baby will need to be seen by a doctor due to symptoms and other criteria. However, if you are ever concerned or questioning your child’s illness it’s best to reach out to their pediatrician for further guidance right away.
Symptoms that would be cause for concern:
- Child is under 2 months old. Newborns and young infants are at a greater risk when it comes to certain infections due to their undeveloped immune systems. If you have an infant under 2 months with a fever, you’ll want to reach out to your pediatrician right away.
- Difficulty breathing. If your baby is having a hard time breathing it’s possible that the fever is related to an upper respiratory illness.
- Inconsolable crying. Having a fever is no fun, however, if your baby is inconsolable that may mean there’s more that’s going on than a simple bacterial or viral infection.
- Continued fever. You’ll want to bring your baby in if the fever has lasted more than 5 days.
- 102 Degrees F or higher. You should reach out to your child’s pediatrician if your baby’s temperature starts to rise above 102 degrees F. It’s possible, based on that and other symptoms, that your baby may need to be seen right away.
When your baby comes down with a fever many times it’ll be an unpleasant experience, but it’s usually also an uneventful one. And simply cuddling and soothing your baby will be enough to help them through their fever.