Mar 28, 2019

3 min read

Fever in children: What is it?

When your child has a fever, it’s understandable to be anxious. The symptoms are naturally distressing, their forehead is hot, they may be shivering, have flushed cheeks and clammy, they complain of a headache and are irritable. However, fever is commonly misunderstood. As a result, this increases our worry and stress as parents and carers. But understanding fever is a way to lower our anxiety, to stay calm and deliver the care your child needs.

A fever is an increase in core body temperature. It is the hallmark of infections and also for many serious illnesses. Then it’s good to know that in most instances fever is a thoughtful and normal bodily response in fighting infection. The fever has a vital role in combating a disease. In many infections, it is a signal that activates the white blood cells, the “soldiers” of the body, and although aggravating, one can rest assured that it’s worse for the germ.  [Input Example here] A fever is, therefore, part of our defense system. 

Fevers demonstrate how brilliant our bodies are. Think of the body as having a thermostat. It sits in a part of the brain known as the hypothalamus. It precisely controls the temperature within narrow limits throughout the day, to optimize bodily functions. Your temperature isn't supposed to be 37°C (98.6°F) all day long but should increase during activity, and decrease at least 0.5°C (32.9°F) to adequately recover and strengthen your body from your daily chores and exercise. 

“Did you know that when biking at 80% of your max pulse your body temperature rises on average as much as 2°C degrees (3.6°F).”

Human Temperature Control, E. H. Wissler

In response to illness, this thermostat can effectively reset the body to operate at a higher normal temperature.  In doing so, it assists in combating the illness. The fever by itself is not an illness; it’s a sign of the immune system working hard and a necessary natural process.

High temperatures are quite common in babies, toddlers and young children and almost all will recover from a high fever in just a matter of a few days without problems. But knowing this remember that all newborns disregarding cause should see a doctor at any sign of increased body temperature.
Though it will vary depending on the individual, activity levels and environment, a normal core temperature in babies, toddlers and young children is around 36.4ºC (97.52°F), while a high temperature of 38ºC  (100.4°F) or more is considered to be a fever.

Typical causes of fever in children can include the following:

  • Infections, like coughs and colds
  • Illnesses, like chickenpox or tonsillitis
  • Immunisations
  • Teething

With the right necessary treatment at home, fevers in children should pass within a few days.  However, you must always contact a healthcare professional if:

  • Your baby is under three months old and has a temperature of 38ºC or above.
  • Your baby is 3 to 6 months old and has a temperature of 39ºC or above.
  • Your child’s health appears to worsen, and other signs of upset and illness emerge, such as a rash, difficulty breathing, diarrhea or vomiting.

About the author

Abishek Swaminathen

Senior Content Manager

Abishek is ONiO’s senior content manager. A medical doctor by profession, he stumbled onto a writing career almost by accident, as it were. Words have enthralled Abishek since the day he first held a book and at ONiO, he channels his inner wordsmith towards providing our subscribers with regular doses of fun and informative content.

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