High temperature is very common in young children. The temperature usually returns to normal within 3 or 4 days.
What is a fever?
Fever is the body's natural response to fighting infections like coughs and colds.
Many things can cause a high temperature in children, from common childhood illnesses like chickenpox and tonsillitis, to vaccinations.
Checking a high temperature
Your child might:
- feel hotter than usual to the touch on their forehead, back or tummy
- feel sweaty or clammy
- have red cheeks
Use a digital thermometer (which you can buy from pharmacies and supermarkets) to take your child's temperature.How to take your child's temperature
- Place the thermometer inside the top of the armpit.
- Gently close the arm over the thermometer and keep it pressed to the side of the body.
- Leave the thermometer in place for as long it says in the instruction leaflet – some digital thermometers beep when they're ready.
- Remove the thermometer. The display will show your child's temperature.
If your child's just had a bath or been wrapped tightly in a blanket, wait a few minutes then try again.
What to do if your child has a high temperature
You can usually look after your child or baby at home. The temperature should go down over 3 or 4 days.
- give them plenty of fluids
- look out for signs of dehydration
- give them food if they want it
- check on your child regularly during the night
- keep them at home
- give them paracetamol or ibuprofen if they're distressed or unwell
- do not undress your child or sponge them down to cool them – fever is a natural and healthy response to infection
- do not cover them up in too many clothes or bedclothes
- do not give aspirin to under 16s
- do not combine ibuprofen and paracetamol, unless your GP tells you to
- do not give paracetamol to a child under 2 months
- do not give ibuprofen to a child under 3 months or under 5kg
- do not give ibuprofen to children with asthma
Knowing the signs of more serious illness
It's quite rare for fever to be a sign of anything serious (like meningitis, a urinary tract infection and sepsis).
Call 999 or go to A&E if your child:
- has a stiff neck
- has a rash that doesn't fade when you press a glass against it
- is bothered by light
- has a fit (febrile seizure) for the first time (they can't stop shaking)
- has unusually cold hands and feet
- has pale, blotchy, blue or grey skin
- has a weak, high-pitched cry that's not like their normal cry
- is drowsy and hard to wake
- finds it hard to breathe and sucks their stomach in under their ribs
- has a soft spot on their head that curves outwards (bulging fontanelle)