Fever/high temperature

Fever is extremely common in children and can happen when your child has an infection. Most children recover quickly with no treatment. Please see red/amber/green tables in the when to worry section for advice on when and where to seek care for your child

Related topics: Covid-19meningitisscarlet feversepsis

 

  • Most infections are caused by viruses (like colds and flu).  Virus infections give children a runny nose, cough, wheeze, sore throat, red eyes or diarrhoea. Virus infections are easily spread, so many people can be unwell in the same house.
  • Virus infections tend to get better on their own and do not need treatment with antibiotics. Antibiotics can cause side effects such as rashes and diarrhoea.  If antibiotics are used too often it can cause  antibiotic resistance (this is when antibiotics no longer work against bacteria)

Covid-19 is a virus, if children catch it they usually only have a cold or a mild cough.  They can get fevers, if you want to know more see this information here

  • Fever is common in babies up to 48 hours after receiving immunisations

  • It is okay to give paracetamol after the MenB vaccine without seeking medical advice if your baby is otherwise well

  • Sometimes children with a fever can have a fit. This is called a febrile convulsion.  It usually happens in children aged between 6 months and 6 years.
  • Most of the time they stop by themselves and last less than 5 minutes. In most cases there are no long term effects.

  • Most children that have a febrile fit do not go on to get epilepsy.

How to take a temperature

It is important to take your child's temperature  carefully – you should use a digital thermometer

  • under the armpit for children 5 years and younger
  • in the mouth for children over 5 years .
  • in the ear (using a special tympanic thermometer).  Do not use  with babies less than a month old.

For further advice on taking your child's temperature please click the link below to the NHS website on how to take a temperature

 

When should you worry?

If your child has any of the following:

  • A temperature less than 36oC or temperature 38oC or more if baby is less than 3 months
  • Breathing very fast or breathing that stops or pauses
  • Working hard to breathe, drawing in of the muscles below the rib, unable to talk or noisy breathing (grunting)
  • Becomes pale, blue, mottled and/or unusually cold to touch
  • Difficult to wake up, very sleepy or confused
  • Weak, high-pitched, continuous cry or extremely agitated
  • Has a fit (seizure)
  • Develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure and seems unwell (see the 'Glass Test')

You need urgent help

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999

If your child has any of the following:

  • A temperature 39oC or above in babies 3-6 months
  • Temperature of 38oC or above for more than 5 days or shivering with fever(rigors)
  • Breathing a bit faster than normal or working a bit harder to breathe
  • Swelling of a limb or joint
  • Too painful for your child to stand
  • Complaining of severe pain that is not improving with painkillers
  • Dry skin, lips, tongue or looking pale
  • Not had a wee or wet nappy in last 12 hours
  • Sleepy or not responding normally
  • Crying and unsettled
  • Poor feeding (babies) or not drinking (children)
  • Getting worse or you are worried about them

You need to contact a doctor or nurse today

Please ring your GP surgery or call NHS 111 - dial 111

We recognise that during the current COVID-19 crisis, at peak times, access to a health care professional may be delayed. If symptoms persist for 4 hours or more and you have not been able to speak to either a member of staff from your GP practice or to NHS 111 staff, then consider taking them to your nearest Emergency Department

If your child has none of the above:

Self care

Continue providing your child’s care at home. If you are still concerned about your child, call NHS 111 – dial 111

This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across North East and North Cumbria with consent from the Hampshire development groups.

What should you do?

 

  • Fever is a normal response that can help your child’s body to fight an infection. However, to make your child more comfortable, you may wish to give your child paracetamol and / or ibuprofen to lower your child’s temperature. 
  • Paracetamol 

There are different types of paracetamol for children of different ages including 2 different strengths of syrup - infant and Six plus. Always read the dose instructions carefully. You must wait at least 4 hours between doses. Do not give more than 4 doses in 24 hours. 

  • Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is available in syrup and tablet form. Ibuprofen is not suitable for some children. If you are unsure whether your child can take ibuprofen, check with your pharmacist or doctor. Always read the dose instructions carefully. Don't give ibuprofen if your child has not had a wee in the last 12 hours. You must wait at least 6 hours between doses. Do not give more than 3 doses in 24 hours. 

  • Paracetamol and ibuprofen can be given together at the same time, although it is often best to see how your child responds to one medicine first before giving the other medicine. Take care not give more than the maximum daily dose of either medication. 

 

  • It can take 30 minutes for your child’s temperature to start to fall and for your child to start to feel better after taking paracetamol or ibuprofen. 
  • Paracetamol and Ibuprofen may not get rid of a fever entirely. It is helpful to remember that fever is a normal response that can help your child’s body to fight an infection.
  • Paracetamol and ibuprofen help to bring down temperature but do not treat the infection so your child will continue to get high temperatures whilst they are unwell once the effects of Paracetamol and ibuprofen have worn off.  

Further information on how to give these medicines to your child can be found at medicinesforchildren.org.uk 

  • Encourage them to drink plenty of fluids
  • If a rash appears, do the glass test

 

How long will your child’s symptoms last?

  • Fever caused by a viral infection tends to improve within 2 to 3 days
  • If your child’s fever lasts for more than 5 days, get them seen by your GP
  • The chart below shows how long fever lasts in a child with viral infections. The faces represent 10 children who have seen their GP with a viral infection. Green faces are those children whose fever has recovered within that time period      

The diagram above is taken from Little-orange-book-NHS-March-2017.pdf (gateshead.gov.uk)

Where should you seek help?

  • If it is non-urgent, speak to your local pharmacist or health visitor.
  • Follow the advice in the red, amber and green boxes above

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns or to the Community Paediatricians or to the child and adolescent mental health services.

Contact them by phoning your Health Visitor Team or local Children’s Centre.

Click below to find information on your local health visiting team: 

North Cumbria

Northumberland

North Tyneside

Newcastle

Gateshead

South Tyneside

Sunderland

County Durham

Darlington

Hartlepool

Stockton

Middlesbrough

Redcar and Cleveland

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information watch the video: What does a health visitor do?

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and/or emotional health needs.

Contacting the School Nurse

Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

What the school nursing service deliver may vary depending on your local area offer. Click the link below to find information on your local school nursing team: 

North Cumbria

Northumberland

North Tyneside

Newcastle

Gateshead

South Tyneside

Sunderland

County Durham

Darlington

Hartlepool

Stockton

Middlesbrough

Redcar and Cleveland

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:-

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • offering immunisations
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped. If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance
Survey for parents/carers - what was the outcome of you looking at this page?

Accessibility tools