Fevers during the night are not uncommon for children, but they can be a big worry for parents. It’s easy to get stressed if your child falls ill when the doctor’s office is closed, but rest assured that dealing with your child’s fever is as easy as ABCD when you know the steps. Take a look at our simple, memorable guide for help.
A is for Assess: Check Their Symptoms
While fevers are relatively harmless in most cases, they can sometimes be a sign of a serious emergency. Check your child’s temperature and assess their other symptoms to know whether you need to seek urgent medical attention.
The best way to check your child’s temperature is with a digital thermometer, oral or rectal. Any temperature above 38° Celsius (100.4° Fahrenheit) constitutes a fever. However, a high temperature in itself isn’t an emergency unless it repeatedly or consistently spikes above 40° Celsius (104° Fahrenheit).
Even if your child’s fever is under 40°, you should still seek emergency medical attention if the fever is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- A dark rash that doesn’t fade with pressure
- Severe sleepiness or irritability
- Severe pain or stiffness in any part of the body
- Trouble breathing
- Seizures or convulsions
- Severe vomiting or diarrhoea
If none of these symptoms are present and your child’s fever isn’t severely high, proceed with the following steps.
B is for Bath: Gently Sponge Bathe Them
One common home method for bringing down a fever by a few degrees and making your child more comfortable is a sponge bath.
One common mistake parents make when sponge bathing is to use cold water; cold water can actually make a fever worse because it causes shivering, which raises the body’s temperature.
Instead, use tepid water around 29.4 to 32.2° Celsius (85 to 90° Fahrenheit), according to Healthy Children.
If you don’t have a thermometer, use the back of your hand to see when the water feels slightly warm. Once the bath is 2.5 to 5 centimetres full (1 to 2 inches), sit your child down and use a clean sponge or washcloth to gently spread water over their body. As the water evaporates, your child’s body will cool down.
You should stop the sponge bath if it hasn’t brought your child’s temperature down within 30 to 45 minutes or if it’s making your child more uncomfortable or irritable.
C is for Children’s Medicine: Try Safe Painkillers
If your child has no known allergies to medications, children’s painkillers are always a good option to try. The order in which you should try painkillers and sponge bathing depends on your individual child’s condition.
- Try painkillers before a sponge bath if your child has no problem taking medicines.
- Try a sponge bath and painkillers together if your child is particularly uncomfortable and is finding it hard to rest.
- Try a sponge bath instead of painkillers if your child is unable to take medication for any reason or cannot keep it down due to vomiting.
Paracetamol and ibuprofen are both safe and effective anti-fever medicines as long as you follow the instructions on the packaging. The correct dosage will vary depending on your child’s age and weight.
Note that you should never give your child aspirin. While this medicine is commonly used by adults, it’s been linked to a serious disease called Reye syndrome in children.
D is for Doctor: Call for a Home Visit
Rest, fluids, medicine and sponge bathing are usually enough to bring a fever down within a day or so. However, sometimes fevers persist or worsen.
If your child had had a fever for longer than 72 hours (or 24 hours if they’re under 2), their illness seems to be getting worse, or you have any other worries or concerns, call an after-hours doctor. They’ll be able to make a home visit, medically assess your child’s symptoms, and give you peace of mind or advise you on the best steps to take next.
Follow the tips in this guide to help reduce your child’s fever, and visit Hello Home Doctor Service to learn more.