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Signs of Fever in Infants and Children

June 21, 2023

Signs of fever in infants and children can startle you, despite being in this situation many times. The little one may only feel warm but when you take the temperature, you realize it is a fever and not just feeling warm. The only way to handle the signs of fever in infants and children is to familiarize yourself with the reasons for fever in babies and what are the warning signs. Understanding fever in babies, when to worry and when not to worry, helps a great deal. Read on to learn about what fever is and the signs of fever in infants and children.

What is a Fever?

The normal body temperature of a human being is around 98.6 °F or 37 °C. It can increase or decrease slightly throughout the day. A fever occurs when the temperature goes above 100.4 °F. Fever in kids is called "low-grade fever" when the temperature is between 100.4°F and 102.2°F. Anything above 102.2 °F is called a "high fever."

A fever is an increase in the body temperature that occurs temporarily and is the response of the immune system of the body. This response is usually because of an infection and the immune system is doing its job of warding off the infection or illness. However, even a lower fever in babies 1-year-old may mean a serious infection. The signs of fever in infants and children lead to a lot of discomfort. Usually, fever in kids or for that matter, even in adults, is not a major cause for concern as it goes away after a few days. There are many over-the-counter medicines that are available to reduce fever but they may not be necessary unless they are causing too much discomfort. If fever in kids does not reduce even after a few days, it needs to be checked by a professional. Viral fever in babies may need mild antibiotics if it does not reduce in a couple of days.

Book an appointment with Dr. Anisha Arjun S K for pediatric concerns.

Reasons for Fever in Babies

A fever is not considered an illness but a symptom of an infection or illness. It means that the body is warding off the invader and that the body’s immune system is at work. The reason for fever in babies in most cases is because of a viral infection or cold. Some of the other reasons for fever in babies, although less common, are ear infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia or other serious issues like meningitis or blood bacterial infections. Other signs of fever in infants and children can also be caused by spending a lot of time outdoors in the hot sun or overheating as the babies are dressed too warmly.

Signs of Low-Grade Fever in Infants and Children

The signs of fever in infants and children vary and are different for every child. When the temperature is taken using a thermometer between 100.4°F and 102.2 °F, it means there is a low-grade fever. Along with fever, the other signs of fever in infants and children are:

  • Sweating
  • Poor sleeping
  • Shivering and chills
  • Changes in appetite
  • Muscle aches
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Behavioral changes like irritability
  • Headaches
  • Less active than normal
  • No interest in playing

The thermometer is not the best indicator of how ill the child is, but the signs of fever in infants and children are important. One has to take into account the child's age, how the child is behaving, the number of days of fever and other symptoms one sees. For instance, a small percentage of fever in babies 1-year-old or younger leads to seizures and needs immediate attention.

Signs of High Fever in Infants and Children: Newborn to 3 Months

In babies between 0 and 3 months old, even a small increase in temperature can be a cause for worry. You should head to urgent care if the fever is above 100.4 °F. The symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Rashes
  • Trouble feeding and/or breathing
  • Diarrhea and/or vomiting
  • Inconsolable, lethargic or acting differently from normal.

Signs of High Fever in Infants and Children: 3 Months to 3-year-old

In toddlers and older babies, consult your pediatrician when the fever is over 102.2°F. If you are giving OTC medications, check how the baby is responding. Consult your doctor before giving OTC medicines for fever in babies 1-year-old or less. If the fever does not reduce to paracetamol, it could be a viral fever in babies. Symptoms to watch for are:

  • Decreased urination
  • Trouble waking up
  • Breathing issues
  • Unexplained rashes
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Stiff neck

Signs of High Fever in Infants and Children: 3-year-old and above

If the child is 3-year-old or older and the fever is above 102°F and does not subside even after a couple of days. If you are wondering about fever in babies and when to worry, then read on. The symptoms that may need immediate attention are:

  • Vomiting
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Breathing issues
  • Abdominal pain
  • Stiff neck
  • Lethargy
  • Unable to wake up

Signs of Fever in Infants and Children: When Not to Worry

When it comes to the question of signs of fever in infants and children and when to worry, then look out for the above-mentioned symptoms. Always see a doctor when there is a fever in babies less than 3 months old. For older kids, it is important to know when to monitor and when to relax. You may need to monitor and not worry if:

  • The fever lasts fewer than 3 to 5 days, and the child is normal. Monitor their drinking, eating and play patterns.
  • A fever of less than 102°F in children between 3 months and 3 years old is common and only needs monitoring as there is no cause for concern.
  • Immunization can also cause low-grade fever and is not a cause of concern.

Fevers are a common occurrence in children and adults. While the thermometer may show there is a fever, it is important to monitor the signs of fever in infants and children. If they are normal and taking enough fluids and the fever goes away quickly, you can choose at-home medications. However, if it persists, consult a doctor.

  1. Even though the height of fever does not define severity of illness by itself, there is an association with a greater likelihood of SBI (SEVERE BACTERIAL INFECTION ) for temperatures >39 °C.
  2. When a cause for fever cannot be identified by history and physical examination it is called “fever without source” (FWS) .
  3. In industrialized countries, a minority of children with FWS will have a serious bacterial infection (SBI) (mainly urinary tract infection (UTI), less commonly pneumonia, sepsis, or meningitis), while the majority will have mild, self-resolving viral illnesses .
  4. Nevertheless, signs and symptoms of a viral upper respiratory infection do not reliably exclude the possibility of an associated SBI, given the possibility of co-infection.
  5. Rigors: The presence of rigors may be associated with a higher probability of SBI (15% vs. 6% in children without rigors) . Furthermore, they are also common in serious non-bacterial illness such as malaria, dengue, and chikungunya. Leg pain has also been reported as a possible early sign of bacterial sepsis and meningococcal disease . Night sweats are a relatively nonspecific symptom.


1. How long should a fever last in a child?

Fevers normally clear up within a couple of days. If it lasts for more than four days, consult a doctor

2. Is a 102 fever normal for kids?

Medication may not be needed to treat this fever. If the child feels discomfort, you can consult a doctor for medication.

3. How to reduce fever in children naturally?

  • Give your child plenty of fluids like coconut water, juices, etc.
  • Dress the child lightly.
  • Give the child a sponge bath with lukewarm water.

Want to consult the Best Pediatricians in India? Please find the links below.

  1. ‍Best Pediatricians in Bangalore
  2. Top Pediatricians in Chennai
  3. Best Pediatric Doctor in Mumbai
  4. Top Children’s Specialist near me in Pune
  5. Best Child Specialist doctor in Chandigarh
  6. Top Pediatrician near me in Gurgaon
  7. Best Pediatrician doctors in Noida
  8. Top Pediatrician doctors in New Delhi
  9. Best Pediatrician doctors in Faridabad
  10. Top Pediatrician doctors in Panchkula
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