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Kids and fever – what to look for and how to treat

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A child’s body temperature can rise as a way to fight viral infections like colds and flu. Fever can also be caused by teething, earache, sore throat, headache and immunisations. 

Most children’s normal body temperature hovers around 37˚C. Body temperatures of over 38˚C (if measured in the mouth) or 37.5˚C (in the ear) are considered a fever.

How to measure a fever

An ear thermometer is quick, accurate, will give you a reading in seconds, and is the best type of thermometer to use with young children. Digital thermometers used under the tongue also measure accurately after 2 - 3 minutes but may not be suitable for very young children if they have glass components. Temperature readings from the armpit are not very reliable and measure about 0.5˚C lower than temperatures taken from under the tongue. Your local Unichem has a range of different thermometers and your Pharmacist can help you choose the best one.

What to look for 

In addition to using an ear or mouth thermometer to check for a raised temperature, there are signs that your child could have a fever. Look for:

  • Tears and irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • A flushed face
  • They’re not sleeping like normal
  • They touch the body part that hurts (if an ear or throat infection is causing the fever)

Treating your child’s fever

  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids. A child with a high temperature can become dehydrated.
  • Let them rest.
  • Keep them cool. If they shiver while their temperature is rising, it’s ok to cover them. As soon as their temperature has stabilised and they start sweating, they need to cool down. Dress them in lightweight clothing and cover with a light sheet.
  • Bathe them in a lukewarm bath – not too hot, not too cold. Any shivering will actively raise their body temperature.
  • Get advice on medicines from your Unichem Pharmacist – not all fevers need to be treated. If your child has a fever and is happy, you don’t need to give them any medicine. If they have a fever and are miserable, treat with a suitable medicine and don’t hesitate to see a doctor if you are worried at all. See the paracetamol and ibuprofen dosage tables below and talk to your Unichem Pharmacist for additional advice. 
  • Last but not least – give them lots of TLC (tender loving care)!

When to see a doctor

Seek immediate medical attention if your child:

  • Behaves differently, looks exhausted or ill, cries constantly, cannot be comforted or doesn’t wake easily
  • Is younger than 3 months and has a rectal temperature of 38˚C or higher, even they don’t have other signs or symptoms
  • Is older than 3 months and has a temperature of 38.9˚C or higher
  • Is younger than 2 years and has a fever longer than one day 
  • Is older than 2 years and has a fever longer than three days
  • Has just had an operation
  • Has ongoing tonsillitis
  • Has pain when urinating, or urinates more than usual
  • Has other illnesses or does not seem to be improving 
  • Has a rash on their body

If any of the following symptoms accompany your child’s fever, it’s a medical emergency and you should call 111 immediately: 

  • Trouble breathing
  • A stiff neck or complaints of a sore neck
  • A red rash, or blue or purple dots or patches over their body
  • Confusion or hallucinations
  • Cramps or leg pains
  • Is affected by bright light
  • Has continual vomiting or diarrhoea 

A guide to paracetamol and ibuprofen dosages for children

This guide is not a replacement for care and advice from your Unichem Pharmacist. The correct dose depends on your child’s weight and the strength of the medicine. 

Approximate age Approximate weight   Paracetamol dose mg (15mg/kg/dose)   Paracetamol dose ml   Ibuprofen dose (20mg/kg/day in 3-4 doses). Maximum dose 30mg/kg/day  
  kg lb     120mg strength/5ml 250mg strength/5ml 100mg/5ml 8 hourly  
Birth 3.2 7 Consult your doctor          
3 months 6 13 90mg 6 hourly 3.8ml 1.8ml    
6 months 7.5 16.5 113mg 4-6 hourly 4.7ml 2.3ml 50mg 2.5ml
12 months 9 22 135mg 4-6 hourly 5.6ml 2.7ml 60mg 3ml
18 months 11 24 165mg 4-6 hourly 7ml 3.3ml 73mg 3.7ml
3 years 15 33 225mg 4-6 hourly 9.3ml 4.5ml 100mg 5ml
5 years 18 40 270mg 4-6 hourly 10ml 5.4ml 120mg 6ml
8 years 23 53 345mg 4-6 hourly   7ml 153mg 7.7ml
10 years 30 66 450mg 4-6 hourly   9ml 200mg 10ml
12 years 40 88 600mg 4-6 hourly   12ml 267mg 13.4ml

If your child is on any other medicines, check with your Unichem Pharmacist before giving them pain relief medicines.

Important advice about paracetamol and ibuprofen

  • Always read instructions on the packaging carefully.
  • Double check the dose and strength.
  • Shake and invert the bottle a few times before measuring.
  • Always use a medicine measure (like an oral syringe) for accurate doses. Always leave at least 4 hours between doses.
  • Do not exceed four doses in 24 hours.
  • If the pain and fever are still present after 24 hours, talk to your Unichem Pharmacist or doctor.
  • Keep all medicines out of reach and out of sight of children.
  • If your child has too much medication, call your doctor, Unichem Pharmacist or the National Poisons Centre (0800 764 766).