How to Reduce Fever in Your Baby

Baby's fever

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A fever is a temperature over 100.4 degrees F (38 degrees Celsius). Fevers happen when the body is fighting an infection, such as an ear infection or a urinary tract infection. Teething does not cause fever. If your baby or your child has a fever, check with their doctor for a diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using a digital rectal thermometer for children from birth to three years of age to get the most reliable reading. (Be sure to never re-use a rectal thermometer in the mouth.)

Age is important when it comes to fever in babies. Babies under one month (28 days) old with a fever need to go to an emergency room immediately, as they'll need a series of lab tests including a lumbar puncture (spinal tap). Babies between one and two months old (29 to 56 days) may need some or all of these tests, depending on their symptoms. Call your pediatrician immediately, and if you can't reach them quickly, take your baby to an emergency room.

Treating a Fever

Lowering a fever does not treat the underlying infection causing the fever, and can harm the immune system's ability to fight that infection. According to the AAP, "there is no evidence that reducing fever reduces morbidity or mortality from a febrile illness."

If you do decide to treat your baby's fever with medication, you will need dosing recommendations from your baby's doctor, as the dose will vary based on the baby's weight. Before you give acetaminophen or ibuprofen, always check with your child's doctor to confirm the correct dose.

What's the Best Medication to Use?

The jury is out on what's the best type of medication to lower a baby's fever. The AAP ​reports that there is "significant concern" in overdosing with chronic doses of acetaminophen, commonly known as Tylenol, a situation that could occur if you were treating your baby with doses every four or six hours, as outlined on the label's instructions. In fact, they explain that acetaminophen overdose is the #1 medication-related emergency room visit for infants.

The AAP also notes that ibuprofen may be slightly more effective in reducing the fever and that no studies show any safety difference in ibuprofen versus acetaminophen for babies aged six to twelve months.

While alternating acetaminophen and ibuprofen is a popular practice, the AAP does not recommend this. It can be very easy to overdose when using this method.

The Bottomline

To treat fevers the AAP recommends:

  • Keeping the baby comfortable and hydrated with comfort measures such as breastfeeding on demand and lukewarm baths as appropriate.
  • Seeking immediate medical attention for babies under 2 months old. For fevers of 100.4 degrees F or higher, a baby who is 28 days old or younger should go directly to an emergency department. If your baby is between 28 and 56 days old, call your pediatrician first, but if you can't reach them right away, go to the emergency room.
  • Treating the cause of the fever, not just the fever itself (and remember, antibiotics will NOT help a viral illness).
  • Using caution with medications and only using medications when the child's fever is causing them significant discomfort such that they cannot keep themselves hydrated or rest.
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Article Sources
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