What temperature is a fever? Is high fever dangerous for a baby?

Infectious Diseases

What temperature is a fever?

Understanding what your child’s temperature means is important and can be quick way of telling if he or she is sick.

When assessing your child’s illness, many doctors will ask if your child has had a fever, how high it has gotten, and how many days it has lasted for. Being able to identify a fever in your child should be part of your parental first aid kit. It’s a great first step in deciding if your child needs to be seen by a doctor.

 

What is a Normal Body Temperature?

Determining normal body temperature depends on where you are taking the temperature so you can determine if your child has a high fever or a low-grade fever.

 

The below table is a great guide for normal body temperature taken at different parts of the body.

Location Celsius (oC) Fahrenheit (oF)
Rectum 36.6 – 37.9 97.9 – 100.3
Mouth 35.5 – 37.9 95.9 – 100.3
Armpit 34.7 – 37.3 94.5 – 99.1
Ear 35.8 – 37.9 96.4 – 100.4

 

*Note: This guide is not just for babies and can be used as a normal temperature guide for both children and adults.

 

What is considered a low-grade fever?

You can see here that if your measurement is rectal or oral, a low-grade fever is considered around 38 degrees Celcius or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

What temperature is a fever?

Same answer as above! A fever starts at 38 degrees Celcius or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit if measured in the mouth or rectum. Where fever starts, is the same as a low-grade fever.

The best method for fever identification in children less than 2 years of age is with a rectal thermometer. But few parents are comfortable with performing rectal temperature readings. Mouth temperatures are the second most accurate, followed by armpit or axillary temperatures.

Ear thermometers are routinely inaccurate (oftentimes there is a discrepancy in temperate between the two ears), and the inaccuracy is seen most prominently with ear infections, as the infected ear is often warmer. Another popular thermometer that parents use is an infrared thermometer, since it’s less invasive and can read body temperature without physical touch.

When in doubt, see your doctor for an accurate temperature reading.

Your child’s behavior and how they are acting is also important. Pay attention to signs like fatigue, panting, and confusion. If a child has a fever, but they are feeling well, not complaining, and they are drinking well and interacting as usual, there is no need to rush to lower it. How your child LOOKS is far more important than the number on the thermometer.

 

What body temperature is considered a fever?

Anything above the normal range by ~0.5o Celsius is considered a fever. A fever can seem scary but it’s a natural response that helps the body fight infections.

As a general rule of thumb, for children less than 6 months old, you should see a doctor if your child has a fever.

Babies less than 2 months of age are not able to fight infections as easily, and fever in this age group may signal a bacterial infection that requires medication to treat. If you have a baby who is less than 2 months of age, and he or she has a fever, please go to your nearest emergency room. DO NOT give fever reducing medication. Just go to the emergency room, as the nurses and doctors will want to take the temperature themselves there first.

Read more about how to reduce a fever and safely maintain a normal body temperature for your child.

If you have a child younger than 2 months with a fever, please seek medical attention ASAP.

For children above two years of age, a fever will typically last for 72 hours or less and can be treated at home. After 48-72 hours of fever, I would suggest seeing your doctor to rule out any treatable infections.

Babies less than 2 months of age are not able to fight infections as easily, and fever in this age group may signal a bacterial infection.

 

Quick Tips on Babies, Kids, and Fever:

• Normal body temperature is about 37oC or 98.6oF

• A fever is anything above 38 oC or 100.4 oF. Read more about the causes of a fever and when it’s serious.

• Fever is not the whole story – pay attention to your child’s behavior!

• Only treat a fever in your child when it’s causing discomfort.

• For febrile children < 2 months – see your doctor immediately.

 

The general information provided on the Website is for informational purposes and is not medical advice.

Do NOT use this Website for medical emergencies.

If you have a medical emergency, call a physician or qualified healthcare provider, or CALL 911 immediately. Under no circumstances should you attempt self-treatment based on anything you have seen or read on this Website. Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed and qualified health provider in your jurisdiction concerning any questions you may have regarding any information obtained from this Website and any medical condition you believe may be relevant to you or to someone else. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.

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