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Catching the signs of fever in babies and children

It's important to remember that fevers themselves are not an illness but rather a sign that the body is fighting off an infection.

Is your child running hot? Is their face flushed? Are they complaining of a headache, body aches, weakness, or fatigue? If so, they could have a fever.

Fevers in children are quite common, especially during winter. The colder months and drop in temperature cause people to spend more time indoors in close proximity to others, which can increase the spread of viruses and infections.

Children are more susceptible to these illnesses as their immune systems are still developing. The dry winter air can also irritate their respiratory system, making them more prone to respiratory infections.

Fevers affect children in different ways. Some kids turn into mini divas, demanding cool compresses, popsicles, and an endless supply of cuddles from mom and dad. Others transform into little warriors, determined to battle whatever bug has invaded their body. And then there are the ones who simply don’t seem to notice, carrying on with their crayons and toys as if nothing is wrong.

Common signs of fever in babies, toddlers, and children

Although fevers can be frightening, a high body temperature is not a sickness. Fevers are typically caused by your child’s immune system combating a bacterial or viral infection.

Because most viruses thrive at a person’s core body temperature, when the immune system senses an infection, it responds by increasing the body’s thermostat to help destroy the germs.

However, while fevers typically indicate a minor viral infection, they can also indicate strep throat, ear infections, or urinary tract infections. Furthermore, vaccines might produce a transient fever for up to 48 hours following inoculation. In rare cases, persistent fevers can suggest a more serious problem.

Given the variety of possible fever causes, it’s critical to recognise warning signs and symptoms.

Here’s how to identify if your child has a fever, as well as when to take them to the doctor.

Typical fever symptoms

The most obvious sign of a fever is an elevated body temperature. Oral and ear temperatures are accurate if done properly. Armpit temperatures are the least accurate, but you can use this method to screen a child of any age. Any temperature above 37.8 degrees Celsius when taken orally is called a fever.

A feverish child will most likely behave differently as well. In fact, how your child behaves, and feels is a greater predictor of how sick they are. Fever pattern and how your child acts or responds to fever-reducing medicines are further clues.

In addition to a higher body temperature, indications of fever may include the following:

  • Fussiness
  • Having a sluggish appetite
  • Sleepiness
  • Appetite loss

Around 4% of children under the age of five develop fever-induced seizures (febrile seizures), which are frequently caused by a sudden increase in body temperature. These high fever symptoms may appear frightening – your child may lose consciousness, tremble, or stiffen -but they are usually harmless. Most febrile seizures last only a minute or two, while others last either a few seconds or more than ten minutes.

If your feverish child begins convulsing, place him or her on a soft area and roll them onto their side to avoid choking. Never put anything in their mouth or try to restrain them. When the seizure has ended, contact your paediatrician.

When should you consult a doctor about childhood fevers?

Call the doctor if your child is feverish and under three months old, regardless of their symptoms. Because infants this age are more vulnerable to diseases such as bacterial meningitis and pneumonia, your paediatrician should rule out serious illnesses right away.

If your child is between the ages of three and six months, take them to the doctor if their temperature rises above 38.3 degrees Celsius. You can wait until their temperature reaches 39.4 degrees Celsius if they are older than six months unless they have other concerning symptoms such as lethargy, irritability, sore throat, ear pain, vomiting and/or diarrhoea, uncomfortable urination, unexplained rash, stiff neck, or signs of dehydration such as infrequent urination and lack of tears.

If your feverish child has a chronic health issue, such as asthma or diabetes, take him or her to the doctor right away.

A word on heat stroke

It’s also critical to distinguish between fever and heat stroke. Heat-related increased body temperature is induced by environmental factors. It’s crucial to remember to avoid overheating your infant – even during the chilly season. If you feel your kid has overheated, remove them from the heat source immediately and phone your paediatrician or transport them to the emergency department.

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