Inside: Worried about your baby’s fever? Should you bring your baby to see the doctor? Not sure how much medicine to give? Get expert answers on what to do when your baby has a fever.
This post was sponsored by the Role Mommy Writer’s Network. All opinions are 100% my own.
As a first-time mom it’s natural to feel uncertain or confused when faced with typical baby care questions that come up throughout baby’s first year. And it doesn’t always help when you have a plethora of advice from well-meaning friends and family. Sometimes you end up second-guessing yourself when an unfamiliar and uncharted territory comes up.
I know there were many times in early motherhood I found myself with inconsolable babies screaming in the middle of the night and just wish I had all the answers at my fingertips — to know if it warranted a doctor visit or if the best way to soothe baby was just in my arms at home.
Nowadays, moms may turn to the internet and google whatever issue they are facing — which of course is good and bad, as we all know searching leads you through the rabbit-hole when a wide-range of answers pop up.
Are you wondering what to do when your child has a sudden fever?
Should you take baby to see a doctor or manage symptoms at home?
And how do you differentiate a serious temperature from a less concerning fever?
These are some of the most common questions I remember asking myself as a new mom each time my babies were sick — everyday worries that many moms struggle with.
When your baby has a fever
As a new mom, one of biggest challenges I encountered was during cold or flu season — I often felt helpless and overly concerned when it came to managing fevers in babies. And it’s actually something I still grapple with as a mom to three little ones.
I remember feeling torn many times in motherhood. When my baby had a low-grade fever I often didn’t know if I should take him in to see the doctor or alleviate at home with Tylenol and rest (as was usually the doctors orders.) Sometimes the cause was teething or a cold virus, but other times it persisted and was revealed to be a symptom of roseola, pneumonia, croup or RSV.
That’s why with each child and new fever, I wasn’t always confident about what to do. Because a fever can mean many things. Over the years, I’ve learned to pay attention to other details like time of fever onset, duration, severity and accompanying symptoms and always trust my gut and call the doctor when unsure. Even if it may seem inconvenient or like an unnecessary precaution, because the alternative is worse.
If you’re a parent that often struggles with handling fevers, it’s time to get answers straight from the experts. Dr. Tanya Altmann answers a few of the biggest fever-related questions below – excerpts from her new book, Baby & Toddler Basics, a comprehensive new resource answering the top 150 questions parents tend to ask.
What is a fever and when should I call the doctor?
Normal body temperature can vary throughout the day but is about 98.6 degrees F (plus or minus 1 degree). A temperature of 100.4 F or higher (obtained rectally) is considered a fever.
However, this is where age of your child plays a big role. Any fever (even low-grade) in a newborn baby 3 months old or younger, is usually reason enough to check in with your doctor immediately — or go straight to the emergency room. For older infants, a temperature of 102 F means it’s time to call your doctor to discuss symptoms and whether or not you need to be seen. For infants 6 months and older, a 104 F warrants a call to the pediatrician. The big factor here is to watch those other symptoms and behaviors to ensure things aren’t worsening.
What causes a fever?
According to Dr. Tanya, a fever is usually caused by infections from viruses (such as a cold virus or the flu) or bacteria (such as an ear infection). The fever itself is not the disease — only a sign that the body’s defenses are trying to fight an infection. Whatever your child’s age, some symptoms that occur along with a fever warrant a more urgent call to your pediatrician, because they may indicate a more serious illness or situation developing. She recommends you call your doctor if your little one has a fever and any of the following symptoms:
- Refusal or inability to drink fluids
- Continuous crying
- Irritability after lowering the fever temperature with appropriate medication
- Difficulty waking up
- Stiff neck
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent vomitting
When to call the doctor
As mentioned above, this is when age plays a big role. The younger the child, the lower the threshold needed to be seen. Newborns are the most susceptible and thus should be brought in immediately. What is equally important is duration — if a fever persists for more than 3 days, you should call your doctor. A fever lasting 4+ days should be evaluated by a doctor — even if the fever is not accompanied by any of the worrisome symptoms.
Can I give my baby medicine – and how much?
Even if you aren’t a first-time mom, when you have a sick baby and toddler it’s easy to forget the recommended dosage for each age group – so it’s okay to ask your pediatrician for a reminder. These things are confusing. There’s Infant Tylenol and Children’s Tylenol, and then there’s infant Motrin and children’s Motrin.
I often lost count on the number of times I had to check in with my doctor to be sure I was giving my baby the right dosage.
Tylenol (acetaminophen) can be given to all babies in appropriate doses depending on weight and lasts 4-6 hours. Motrin (ibuprofen) should only be given to infants older than 6 months old and can be taken every 6-8 hours. It’s important to note that infants’ and children’s formulations of Motrin have different concentrations, but Tylenol is the same.
In her new book Dr. Tanya answers many more questions like these — common questions that moms face over and over again. The depth of topics and thorough answers included in the book help moms of little ones find the answers right at their fingertips. It’s a book every new mom should add to her baby registry and is a must to keep in a household of babies and toddlers — whether in the diaper bag, the nightstand or on your mobile device. Grab your copy here! Her new book’s simple, clear Q & A layout makes searching for answers just as fast as an internet search, but with immediate expert advice that parents can fully trust.
Remember, whether your baby has a fever or not, if things don’t seem right, always trust your gut and call your doctor. It’s the one thing new moms can always rely on for making the best decision for their baby.
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Ana, a mom to three rambunctious little boys, has supported thousands of women throughout their pregnancy and motherhood journey since 2012 as a prenatal and postpartum educator at MommysBundle.com.