Fever & Children

Fever in children and especially babies is a source of fear for many parents. It’s also a bit of a tricky topic to write about because of current regulations, but I think it’s important that the information below is disseminated widely.

In this blog I’m quoting from the wealth of information available to parents on the RCHM (The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne) website, which has been updated early this year (Feb 2018).

This is really good, common sense information. Add to this a visit to the GP if your bub is under three months old or your child is very unwell or in pain, plus some of the homeopathics traditionally used to help in mild childhood illness and you should feel confident to manage things in most uncomplicated situations.

There is a considerable body of research on the over-use and unnecessary use of over-the-counter pain/fever medications in children, so you don’t want to use this too often if you don’t have to … and certainly not routinely or “just in case”.

At the bottom of the article I’ve mentioned ABC, the traditional homeopathic combination for managing similar symptoms in children and of course if your child is constantly unwell and you feel like you’re always reaching for the bottle of Baby Panadol, you need to be thinking about looking deeper. A consultation with your homeopath to investigate the underlying issue, often related to the inherited tendencies or the birth in the early stages, can give children a good start in life and save a lot of sleepless nights!

Advice from the RCHM

Fever in children

Fever (a high temperature) is common in children. Fever is a normal response to many illnesses, the most common being an infection in the body. Fever itself is usually not harmful – in fact, it helps the body’s immune system fight off infection.

While fevers can be concerning for parents, doctors will usually be more concerned about what is causing the fever, and not what the child’s temperature is. It is more important for you to monitor any symptoms of the underlying illness, rather than the fever itself.

Signs and symptoms of fever

Your child has a fever when their temperature reads above 38.5°C on a thermometer. However, babies under three months have a fever when their temperature reads above 38°C.

Your child may also be:

  • unwell and hot to touch
  • irritable or crying
  • more sleepy than usual
  • vomiting or refusing to drink
  • shivering
  • in pain.

If your baby is under three months and has a fever above 38°C, then you should see a doctor, even if they have no other symptoms.

Taking your child’s temperature

There are a number of ways you can take a child’s temperature. Each method measures your child’s temperature in a different way, and the results can vary depending on the type of thermometer you use. Different methods include:

  • infrared forehead thermometer
  • under the arm or under the tongue with a digital, mercury or alcohol thermometer
  • ear (tympanic) thermometer
  • plastic tape thermometers used on the forehead (these are not recommended as they are not reliable).

Some thermometers are more suitable for particular age groups so you should always read and follow the manufacturer’s directions to get an accurate reading. You can also ask your Maternal and Child Health Nurse, GP or pharmacist to show you how to use your thermometer. Do this before you need it.

Febrile convulsions

Some children can have convulsions (a ‘fit’ or seizure) when they have a fever. These are called febrile convulsions. Your child may have a febrile convulsion if their temperature goes up suddenly. Sometimes, a convulsion happens when parents don’t actually know their child has a fever. Febrile convulsions are not common and do not usually cause any long term health effects. See our fact sheet Febrile convulsions.

Treatment

The infection that leads to a fever is often caused by a virus, and sometimes by bacteria. Only bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. Viral infections are far more common and do not need antibiotics, because antibiotics do not cure viruses.

Lowering your child’s fever will not help treat the underlying illness more quickly. The only advantage of lowering a fever is improving your child’s comfort.

If your child seems well and is happy, there is no need to treat a fever. If your child is miserable, there are things you can do to help them to feel more comfortable:

  • Give your child frequent small drinks. Many children refuse to eat when they have a fever. This is not a problem, as long as they stay hydrated.
  • Give extra breastfeeds, formula bottles or cooled boiled water to babies under six months old.
  • Give your child paracetamol and/or ibuprofen if the fever is making them miserable or they have other symptoms, such as a sore throat. Carefully follow the dosage instructions on the packaging. Do not give ibuprofen to babies under three months old or to any child who is dehydrated. Never give aspirin to children. See our fact sheet Pain relief for children.
  • Try wiping your child’s forehead with a sponge or facewasher soaked in slightly warm water to help cool them down. It’s important they don’t become too cold or uncomfortable when you do this. Cold baths or showers are not recommended.
  • Dress your child in enough clothing so that they are not too hot or cold. If your child is shivering, add another layer of clothing or a blanket until they stop.

Watch your child for signs that their illness is getting worse.

When to see a doctor

If your baby is under three months and has a fever above 38°C, or if your child is immunocompromised (has a weakened immune system) due to a medical condition or medical treatment and has a fever above 38°C, then you should see a GP, even if they have no other symptoms.

For all other children, take them to see a GP if their temperature is above 38.5°C and they have any of the following symptoms:

  • a stiff neck or light is hurting their eyes
  • vomiting and refusing to drink much
  • a rash
  • more sleepy than usual
  • problems with breathing
  • pain that doesn’t get better with pain relief medication.

Also take your child to a GP if they:

  • have a fever above 40°C
  • have had any fever for more than two days
  • seem be getting more unwell
  • have had a febrile convulsion.

Key points to remember

  • Fevers are common in children.
  • A fever is when a child’s temperature rises above 38.5°C.
  • If your child seems well and is happy, there is no need to treat a fever.
  • If your child is under three months and has a fever above 38°C, take them to the doctor.
  • Take your child to the doctor if they seem to be getting worse or their temperature is over 40°C.

From Elements of Health

The RCHM also has several useful fact sheets on pain relief and also more natural ways to make children comfortable when they are sick. Great stuff guys!!

Fact Sheet: Pain relief for children 

I would recommend reading this as it talks about the risks of too much ibuprofen (Nurofen, etc) and paracetamol (Panadol, etc).

Key point to remember here is that pain-relieving medicines do not treat the cause of your child’s pain. So if you are giving meds because your child is unwell with a cold or sore ear, you can use your homeopathics (alone or alongside) to manage the symptoms.

Key point number 2 from the RCHM: If your child seems well and is happy, there is no need to treat a fever. A fever helps the body’s immune system fight off infection. If your child is miserable or uncomfortable, you can give them paracetamol or ibuprofen, or your homeopathics, to help them feel better.

Febrile Convulsions

This seems to be every parents number one fear if their young child has a fever. However, the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne says it is common and not usually a problem.

Here is their fact sheet with more information. Febrile Convulsions.

Homeopathy for Fever

There are many ways to manage fevers homeopathically before you need to use over-the-counter pain/fever medications, or you can use them alongside if you are not confident with your home remedies. I’ve written about this in other blog posts.

ABC (Aconite, Belladonna, Chamomilla 30c) is a great remedy to have on hand for fever in small children which may be related to teething or the beginning of an illness. ABC will frequently help the body work through the fever naturally, however there are many other options. Contact us if you would like more information or go to the website search box.

Remember the advice is that if your baby is under three months and has a fever above 38°C, you should see a doctor, even if they have no other symptoms.

The idea is not to lower the fever but to help the body work harder to overcome the cause, because fever is a natural immune response, often to infection. Again, you will note (if you read through all of the above) that the RCHM only recommends using over-the-counter pain/fever medication if a child is uncomfortable or in pain – not for the fever itself.

Research is showing that we are creating generations of children with compromised immune systems and poor health from the overuse of these medications. A child who has never had a fever is definitely not a sign of good health, but rather a symptom of a weak immune system and this does not bode well for the future. But that’s another blog!


Melanie Creedy trained in the UK in the early 1990s and holds a Bachelor of Health Science in Homeopathy. She is registered with the Australian Register of Homoeopaths (AROH) and is a member of the Australian Homoeopathic Association.

She was Vice President and Professional Development Coordinator of the Australian Homoeopathic Association from 2011 to 2015 and is editor of the AHA National Newsletter.

Melanie has used homeopathy for 30 years and has been in practice since 1998. For many years she ran The Children’s Ear Clinic in Western Australia, but since her tree change to Tasmania, has a special interest in women’s and children’s health generally and helping individuals manage their journey on the spiritual path with homeopathy and her range of essences. Melanie has developed her own methods of dealing with complex cases over the years and offers distance consultations via phone and skype to allow people Australia-wide to access her services.

Homeopathy is a traditional medicine. It may be used in conjunction with other medicines. For any ongoing chronic condition, it is important to be assessed or examined by your healthcare professional or specialist. Always seek medical advice in emergencies. The information provided in this blog does not constitute medical advice but is for information only. If in doubt as to the appropriateness of a suggestion or treatment seek advice from your homeopath.