A child with a significant fever will have a body temperature above 38°C. Your child may also feel tired, look pale, have a poor appetite, be irritable, have a headache or other aches and pains and feel generally unwell. Take the temperature from the armpit, using an electronic thermometer (don’t use in the mouth of under 5s) or use an ear thermometer. Remember that measurements from under the arm are less accurate as the armpit is slightly cooler.
A fever is part of the body’s natural response to fight infection and can often be left to run its course provided your child is drinking enough and is otherwise well. If your child is having trouble drinking, trying to reduce their temperature may help with this. It is important to preventing your child from becoming dehydrated, which can cause kidney problems. Your child’s urine should be pale yellow - if it is darker, your child needs to drink more fluids.
Fevers are common in young children. They are usually caused by viral infections and clear up without treatment. However, a fever can occasionally be a sign of a more serious illness such as a severe bacterial infection of the blood (septicaemia), urinary tract infection, pneumonia or meningitis.
You should also contact your GP if fever symptoms are not improving after 48 hours. Check your child during the night.
Always seek medical advice if your child develops a fever soon after an operation, or soon after travelling abroad.