Normal baby temperature: what is a high temperature for a baby?

How to manage a fever

February 04 2019

When you bring your baby home for the first time there’s lots of discussion about how to keep him comfortably warm or cool. But, what should a baby’s temperature actually be? Just like us adults, your baby’s body temperature will range between 36°C and 37.5°C degrees. If your child has a body temperature over this it is likely that he has a fever but in healthy babies this often isn’t an indication of anything serious. A fever is a good thing if your bub’s immune system is fighting an infection.

Normal baby temperature: what is a high temp for a baby?
If your baby has a temperature measured by a digital thermometer of 38°C or higher, it is probably a fever. Older babies and toddlers with a temperature of 38.5°C or higher is considered a high temp. A temp on or above 39°C on the chart is considered very high so in this instance it’s best to seek medical advice within the same day.

Being hot may make your bub feel irritable or uncomfortable, but a high temperature is very unlikely to cause any long-term problems. However, newborns under 3 months of age with a high temp should be monitored by a doctor.

Does my baby have a fever?
If your baby’s temperature is higher than 38°C, he most likely has a fever. A viral infection, such as a cold, is most commonly the cause of a fever in a child. If your child seems happy, there is no need to treat a fever, it will simply run its course. Fevers are our body’s way of turning up the temperature so that bacteria and viruses cannot thrive in their environment. As hard as it can be to watch, fevers are an ideal and natural reaction to a cold.

What is a low temperature?
Premature or low-weight birth babies are at greater risk of low temps. In some cases a cold environment can be a harmful factor, such as excessive air conditioning. If your baby’s temp drops below 36°C it is considered hypothermia, a dangerously low body temperature, and an ambulance should be called.

Checking your child’s temperature
Like us adults, your baby’s temperature can fluctuate slightly based on factors such as the time of day, activity, or how the temperature is taken. An under the armpit thermometer isn’t always reliable and experts in Australia still say a rectal thermometer is the most accurate way to measure. Many parents will agree that a digital ear or forehead thermometer is the most quick, comfortable and accurate way to check a baby’s temperature.

How to keep your child comfortable with a high temp
Make sure you offer lots of fluids, food if he’s interested in eating, and avoid sending him to daycare. Dress him in light, comfortable clothes. There's no need to strip him down or put him in a cool bath – research shows neither actually helps reduce fever. Without lots of fluids your child might become mildly dehydrated, so make sure to offer him extra breastfeeds if under 6 months. If he is formula fed you can offer smaller amounts of the bottle more frequently. For fevers there is usually no better treatment than time, rest, and fluids. And, of course, lots of cuddles from you.