What to do if your child is running a fever

Written by Dr Rory O Brien, Consultant in Paediatric Emergency Medicine and Clinical Lead for Emergency Medicine in CUH


What is a fever?

A fever is when your thermometer reads 38 degrees and above. It is your body’s natural response to an infection. Fevers are not harmful.


What do I do if my child has a fever?

If your child is <6 months of age, give them their usual amount of formula or if breastfed, offer them more breastfeeds.

If >6 months, you can give them their usual milk or breastmilk, or you can try a rehydration solution.

Your child might need to drink smaller amounts more frequently.

There is no need to treat a fever itself, however if your child is miserable you can give them paracetamol or ibuprofen. Do not give ibuprofen if your child is <3 months or if they are dehydrated. Never give your child aspirin. Be sure to follow the recommended dosing regime supplied on the bottle.

Dress your child so that they are not too hot or too cold. Cold showers and baths are not recommended.


When to go to see your doctor?

If your child is <3 months old, even if they look well

If your child has any serious underlying health condition

If your child:

  • is <3 months old (even if they look well)
  • has any serious underlying health condition
  • has a fever for >48 hours with no clear explanation
  • has a rash
  • complains of increasing or new pain
  • Symptoms not improving after a further 72 hours
  • Seems to be getting more unwell


When to come to the ED?

Bring your child to the Emergency Department if they have any of the following:

  • A stiff neck, or the light is hurting their eyes
  • A purplish/red rash that doesn’t go away when pressed
  • Difficulty breathing
  • No wet nappies / urination for >12 hours
  • Lethargic or inconsolable

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