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Signs of Fever in Newborns: What You Need to Know

Signs of Fever in Newborns What You Need to Know

I understand how worried you feel whenever your little one is sick, especially when their temperature spikes

A fever is usually a common signal for parents to contact their trusted pediatricians because it might mean something worse for their baby. 

Fortunately, not every fever is worth a trip to the hospital. However, it’s still best to be knowledgeable about the signs of fever in newborns so you can know when to call for help. 

In this article, I’ll teach you the signs you must watch out for when dealing with a feverish newborn. 

I’ll also guide you through understanding your little one’s fever, plus tips you might find helpful when caring for your little one.

Signs of Fever in Newborn Babies [0-12 Months]

Signs of Fever in Newborn Babies [0-12 Months]

Unlike toddlers, you can’t ask a newborn how they feel and whether they are in pain or not.  

It might be hard to detect when a baby is ill at this point, but here are some tell-tale signs that can help you know if your baby is sick so you can provide the right care:

  • Prolonged crying or fussiness – Newborns can cry a lot, which could be routine calls for milk or attention. However, if you notice that your baby is being fussy and has been crying inconsolably, it could be a sign that something’s wrong. This could mean they feel uneasy or agitated due to their elevated body temperature. 
  • Excessive fatigue and sleepiness – While it’s normal for newborns to sleep a lot, it’s a different story if your little one favors sleeping more than feeding. You, of all people, know your baby’s routine, so you’d know if they’re excessively sleeping. In this case, a fever may be the most likely cause. 
  • Reduced appetite – Besides excessive fatigue, some newborns refuse to be fed or don’t cry for food during feeding time. They’d rather sleep than drink milk, not feeling the need to eat at all. 
  • Cold or flu symptoms – Whenever your newborn is congested, has a runny nose, and is coughing and sneezing, it’s best to take their temperature too. If a baby develops a cold, they’re likely to have a fever along with it. 
  • Vomiting – Newborns may experience spit-ups from time to time, which is normal. However, if the spit-ups are excessive and appear like vomit, a fever could be a cause. 
  • Feeling warm – It can be confusing to know if your baby is indeed feeling warm due to a fever or if it is just because of the hot and humid Philippine weather. But to be safe, you need to take their temperature immediately to know if they’re also warm internally. 
  • Pulling ears – An irritable baby pulling their ears could be a sign of an ear infection or discomfort, which could also lead to a fever.
  • Sweating and flushed appearance – It’s best to check your baby’s temperature if you notice them looking flushed and sweating excessively, as this could be a sign that they’re feeling hot internally. 

Understanding Fever in Babies

Detecting a fever in babies is quite different than in adults. Hence, it’s best to understand what a fever means for newborns so we can give them the appropriate care

A fever is not exactly an illness but rather a symptom of an underlying condition. Sometimes, it’s a sign that the body is fighting off an infection, as the white blood cells are being stimulated. 

Small rises in body temperature aren’t unusual and are not always something to worry about. It should only be a concern if it exceeds the normal temperature range

Average Body Temperatures and Fevers

The body temperature of newborns and babies varies from adults or even older kids. They usually feel warmer than us as a default, with an internal temperature ranging between 95.8–99.3°F (36.7–37.3°C), and can vary up to 1°F within the day. 

Different factors may affect your child’s body temperature, such as age, activity, and their weather and environment. 

Hence, it’s best to check your child’s temperature using a thermometer instead of just feeling it with your palm or the back of your hand. 

A rectal temperature reading is way more RELIABLE for infants below three months old. Generally, you can suspect a fever if their internal temperature reaches 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

For an oral reading, reaching 99°F could already mean that your little one is experiencing a fever. 

Causes of Fever in Babies

Causes of Fever in Babies and Toddlers

One of the reasons your newborn experiences a fever is a viral or bacterial infection. Because of their weak immune systems, they’re susceptible to viruses and bacteria, which could cause colds, flu, ear infections, and more. 

That’s why some parents don’t allow other people to kiss or touch their newborns, especially during the cold season or if they’re exposed in public. If you’re this type of parent, don’t feel guilty, as you only want to keep your baby healthy.

Another cause of fever in babies is overheating, especially if they’re being bundled with several layers of clothing and fabric. We might assume they feel comfortable, but your newborn DOESN’T NEED that much clothing. 

You can add an extra layer when the weather is cool. Other than that, your baby’s body can regulate their temperature without external assistance, which could leave them feeling way too hot. 

Dehydration is another reason behind your little one’s fever.

During the first few weeks, your baby can get dehydrated quickly, especially when you haven’t figured out the right adjustments for their formula or when your breast milk supply is limited.

Hence, it’s best to monitor your child’s movements and excretions, especially how much they pee in a day. 

If your baby recently visited their pediatrician for some shots, these are probably the reason behind their temperature spike. Vaccines can usually cause a fever as a side effect. 

What to Do When Your Newborn Has a Fever

What to Do When Your Newborn Has a Fever

Now that you understand how a fever can affect your newborn and some common causes, it’s time to equip yourself with information on how to deal with a feverish newborn. 

While professional help is often only a call away, it’s still best to know what to do and how to manage your newborn’s condition at home.

Taking a Newborn’s Temperature

The first thing you want to learn is how, when, and where to take your baby’s temperature for an ACCURATE DIAGNOSIS. As mentioned, readings taken through a rectal thermometer are more precise than an ear and forehead scan. 

This is because the rectum’s temperature is not influenced by external factors that could cool it down or warm it up.  

To take a rectal temperature reading, perform the following steps:

  • You need to lie your baby on your lap with their belly facing down. 
  • Lubricate the thermometer with petroleum jelly and gently slide it into your newborn’s anus. It should be no more than 1 inch if they’re below six months or not more than ½ inch if older.
  • Hold your baby still and wait for the thermometer to beep, usually after 10 seconds. If the temperature is 100.4°F or higher, it means your baby has a fever. 

However, not all households have access to a rectal thermometer. If this is the case for you, an ear, oral, and axillary (armpit) digital or infrared thermometer will do just fine. 

To take your child’s temperature using an ear thermometer, you need to pull their ear backward and aim the tip towards the opposite eye and ear. 

NOTE: Before taking their temperature, they should have been indoors for at least 15 minutes to get a good reading. However, don’t expect it to be accurate, especially for newborns younger than six months. 

For a forehead temperature reading, you simply aim the sensor at the center of your baby’s forehead.

Some thermometers require you to touch the skin and slowly glide toward the top of your baby’s ear until you reach the hairline. But for newer models, you can immediately get a scan by holding the thermometer 1-inch away from the forehead. 

Lastly, to check if your baby has a fever using an axillary thermometer, you only need to put the tip on the armpit and hold the elbow against the chest to close it. 

When the device beeps, take it off and see if your child’s temperature is above 99°F. If so, there’s a high chance that your baby is experiencing a fever. 

Bringing Your Baby’s Temperature Down at Home

Once you confirm your baby has a fever, you must stay calm and think straight to manage such symptoms efficiently. 

Before going to the hospital or nearby clinics to seek professional care, you can try bringing your newborn’s temperature down at home if possible. 

In order to manage your baby’s fever, you need to let them wear light clothing so the heat can escape. 

You should also ensure that your baby is in a cool environment. You can turn the fan on to help the air circulate in the room and keep them comfortable. 

Making sure that your baby is fed with enough fluids is another course of action you should take. Continue breastfeeding your little one to avoid dehydration. You can also offer water or oral rehydration solutions if they’re over six months old. 

You can also consult your healthcare provider on what fever-reducing medicine you can use on your baby, plus the appropriate dosage you can give them at a certain period. 

IMPORTANT REMINDER: Always consult your doctor before providing medication, especially if your baby is under two months old or if they have certain health conditions.  

When to Seek Help

When to Seek Help

A fever shouldn’t be fatal for babies, especially if there’s only a slight rise in your child’s body temperature. 

However, there are some signs you need to look out for that should urge you to seek immediate professional help, as this could indicate a more serious underlying condition. 

Seek Emergency Care

If you notice the following signs, it’s already time to dial 911 and seek emergency care:

  • Your baby is having breathing difficulties (wheezing or breathing rapidly).
  • Your baby’s lips, tongue, or nails are turning bluish and purple, or bruise-like splotches appear on their skin.
  • Your baby is unresponsive.
  • Your baby is drooling and having trouble swallowing.
  • Your baby is having a seizure.

Call Your Baby’s Healthcare Provider

Some indicators would signal that it’s time to call your baby’s doctor as soon as possible:

  • Your baby younger than three months old has a fever higher than 100.4°F (38°C).
  • Your baby is drowsy and sleeps more than usual.
  • Your baby is showing signs of dehydration.
  • Your baby’s fever is accompanied by other severe symptoms, such as diarrhea, vomiting, ear pain, rashes, etc. 
  • Your baby’s phlegm, urine, or stool has blood, or there’s bleeding from their ears.
  • Your baby is suffering from another health condition. 

Call the Doctor Within 24 Hours

While calling a doctor may not be your immediate recourse, you should consider consulting within 24 hours in these particular circumstances:

  • Your baby’s condition is getting worse.
  • Your baby is still fussy, refuses to eat, sleepier than usual, and seems weak or lethargic, even after the fever has dropped.
  • Your baby’s fever is accompanied by other symptoms.

FAQs

Before wrapping things up, I answered a few more questions regarding a newborn’s fever. 

So, if you’re interested to learn more, keep reading! You might find these additional pieces of information helpful in managing your baby’s fever.

How Do I Know If My Baby Has a Fever Without a Thermometer?

It’s always best to measure your baby’s temperature using a thermometer to get an accurate reading. 

However, if you are in a place where a thermometer is inaccessible, you can know if your child is experiencing a fever when they’re warmer and fussier than usual, and their skin looks flushed or ruddier than normal. 

Do note that there are several factors that would affect your child’s body temperature or cause their foreheads to feel hot

So, I suggest checking your baby’s temperature with a thermometer as soon as you can access it.

Should I Give My Newborn Fever Reducers?

It’s okay to give your newborn fever reducers with a doctor’s guidance. I strongly suggest against self-medication to avoid further complications. 

Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are common medicines used to manage and treat an infant’s fever. 

Acetaminophen can be administered to babies older than three months old, while ibuprofen shouldn’t be given to those younger than six months old. 

While the packaging indicates the proper dosage and use of fever reducers, it’s still best to consult your child’s pediatrician before giving them any medication out of the ordinary.

Conclusion

A fever may not be an indicator of a serious health condition at all times. However, there will be circumstances where you must seek emergency care to address your baby’s needs

Knowing the signs to identify a feverish baby, as well as the indicators of when to seek help, is VITAL for parents and caregivers in order to tender proper care. 

Through this, you can avoid further complications in your baby’s condition and ensure their safety. 

I hope this article was able to guide you through your little one’s fever. If your baby is still sick, I wish the best for you both. Feel free to revisit this guide to refresh your knowledge on fever in newborns. 

Sky Bustillo
Sky Bustillo

Hi, I’m Sky!
As a Filipina in her mid-20s, a sister to young ones, and a tita to my nieces and nephews, I somehow share the same sentiment as other parents. I have a growing aspiration of becoming a mom someday!
But there also comes a worry that you won’t be able to give the best to your children, especially with the food they eat, the products they use, and the new habits and hobbies we introduce to them.
Your kid’s safety and welfare are your top priority, that’s why I always make it to a point to learn from the stories and experiences of other moms.
It’s a delight to share what I learned and know to help the moms close to my heart, and this time, I’m writing to relay advice to you from the insights of other moms and my experience around kids, too.
I’d love to be a part of your journey, and I hope you find these tips and tricks helpful for you and your young one!