My child has a fever – what now?

Children bring a lot of joy, but sometimes worries too. Our daughter Olivia had a fever of 39 degrees Celsius last week. My husband and I weren't sure what to do. Luckily, we soon got an appointment with her doctor.

He examined her and reassured us that she was okay. He explained what we can do when she has a fever. So we might manage without seeing a doctor next time.

Fever isn't a bad thing. It's a normal way for the body to fight off germs. Often it's simply because of a new tooth or a harmless cold. Sometimes the body temperature is higher than 37 degrees for just a short time, after running around for example or from wearing clothes that are too warm. A raised temperature is considered to be a “fever” from 38.5 degrees, and a “high fever” from 39 degrees. But babies under 3 months old are already said to have a fever at 38 degrees.

Next time, we'll first wait and see how the fever develops. To help Olivia, we'll offer her something to drink every half an hour, air her room regularly and gently cool her down.

Fever-reducing medicine like paracetamol or ibuprofen is often not needed. It can be given if the child feels very unwell or the fever rises above 39.5 degrees. When buying from the pharmacy, always ask for advice first. It's important to know that the drug in medicines like aspirin (called ASA) shouldn't be given to children because of the side effects.

Fever usually goes away on its own after a day or two. But it's important to see a doctor if the child stops drinking or if the fever lasts longer than three days, rises above 39 degrees, or keeps coming and going in waves. With babies under three months old it's better to go to the doctor if their temperature is above 38 degrees.

We'll also call the doctor if Olivia has other symptoms besides the fever like vomiting, belly ache, a skin rash, shortness of breath, or a stiff neck. And if she has a febrile seizure. This can happen if the fever is very high. It leads to body stiffness and jerking movements. This can be very scary, but is usually harmless.

The main thing is to keep a cool head. That's our new motto when our daughter has a fever!

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Created on February 14, 2024

Next planned update: 2027


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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