If your toddler has a fever his temperature will be higher than normal and he may appear flushed and sweaty.
Although upsetting, a fever is not usually serious. However, in a small number of cases a high temperature is a symptom of a serious infection so it’s important to know what to do.
Normal body temperature is between 36°C and 37°C, but this can vary from child to child. A fever is a temperature that is higher than normal for your child.
You can usually tell if your child has a fever by feeling his forehead or you can use a thermometer. There are different types of thermometer available, so ask your chemist for advice on what type is most suitable for your family's needs.
Fever is one of the body's ways of fighting off infection. The increase in body temperature is thought to help to kill the germs that are trying to infect the body.
The height of the fever doesn't necessarily reflect the severity of the illness. It's the general condition of your child that gives the best indication of how ill he is.
Young children can become feverish for lots of reasons and very often the exact cause remains unknown. In some cases the cause is obvious, for example, it's quite common for a child to have a slight fever for a day or two after immunisations.
Sometimes the cause can be as simple as the body getting too warm through wearing too many clothes or sleeping under too much bedding. But fever can also be a sign of illness so you should look for other signs of your toddler being unwell.
A number of common conditions can cause fever. These include:
Very occasionally a fever, accompanied by other symptoms, is a sign of a more serious illness, such as meningitis. Always seek urgent medical advice if you concerned about your child's health.
Signs that indicate that you should see your doctor urgently include:
If your child has a fever but is otherwise well the important thing is to keep him comfortable and medicine may not be needed. There are a number of ways you can help your child:
Medication, such as liquid paracetamol or ibuprofen, should only be given if your child seems distressed by the fever or the illness that is causing it. However, it's important to note that ibuprofen shouldn't be given in the case of chickenpox.
Give one type of medicine at a time and always follow the instructions on the pack regarding the correct dosage and frequency. Keep him away from daycare or playgroup when he has a fever because he may be infectious.
If your child continues to remain feverish, or his temperature rises to 40°C you should contact your doctoror hospital urgently.
Sometimes, a fit or febrile convulsion can occur which is linked to the start of a fever. Although these are alarming to watch, they usually only last for around 20 seconds and they rarely harm the child.
If the convulsion lasts for longer than five minutes, or this is your child's first convulsion you should take him to the nearest hospital or call for an ambulance.
If your toddler has a febrile convulsion, place him in the recovery position on his side with his face turned to one side, loosen any tight clothing and make sure he doesn't have anything in his mouth that could cause him to choke.
Stay with your child but don't give any form of medication during a convulsion. If possible, time how long the convulsion lasts.
Febrile convulsions are most common between six months and three years of age; 1 in 4 children who has febrile convulsions has a family history of them.