During the course of each day, a child’s body temperature goes up and down by approximately one degree. It’s usually lowest in the early hours of the morning, and highest in the late afternoon and early evening.
A child’s average body temperature is around 37°C but is still considered normal up to 38°C. If a child is experiencing a body temperature of anything higher than 38°C for 24 hours or more, he or she probably has a fever. When a child experiences a fever, it is often the sign of illness.
The fever seen in common childhood infections is not harmful, and in fact it helps the body’s immune system fight off the infection. A child’s temperature will return to normal when the infection has completely gone.
Generally, most children can handle fever well, but you can do a few things to make them feel more comfortable:
- Give your child small quantities of clear fluids such as water often. If your child isn’t hungry, that’s OK. The most important thing is to make sure he or she is drinking enough fluids to avoid dehydration. If your child is less than six months old give extra breastfeeds, cooled boiled water or bottles.
- Dress your child in light, comfortable clothing
- Give your child liquid paracetamol in the correct and recommended dose. Giving your child more than the recommended dose can cause liver damage.
FOR CHILDREN UNDER 12 MONTHS, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT THEY BE SEEN BY A DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY TO RULE OUT ANY SERIOUS ILLNESS.
For all children seek immediate medical attention if your child:
- has trouble breathing
- becomes drowsy
- refuses to drink, and is urinating less often
- complains of a stiff neck, persistent headache or light hurting his or her eyes
- vomits persistently, or has frequent bouts of diarrhoea
- looks sicker than before – more pale, lethargic and weak
- doesn’t improve in 48 hours
- suffers pain
- has a fever above 40°C
For more information see reputable medical sites such as Royal Children’s Hospital http://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Fever_in_children/