What Temperature is Considered as a Fever in a Baby or Child?
Normal Body Temperature in Infants and Children
- The normal body temperature of a child can vary between 36.5 degrees Celsius/97.7 degrees Farenheit and 37.5 degrees Celsius/99.5 degrees Farenheit.
- A child’s body temperature can vary by as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius or 1 to 1.5 degrees Farenheit in the course of a day.
Mild, Moderate and Low Grade Fever Readings in Children
- A core body temperature (rectal) above 38 degrees Celsius/100.4 degrees Farenheit is considered as a fever in a child. In most cases this is just considered as a mild fever and may be managed in the home environment until medical attention can be sought by the next day.
- Body temperatures between 37.6 degrees Celsius and 38 degrees Celsius may also be considered as a fever but this is usually a low-grade fever which may be transient and respond well to anti-pyretic medicines, which are not always necessary.
- When a child has a febrile illness (an illness with a fever) the temperature may fluctuate by as much as 1 degree Celsius during a 24 hour period. These minor fluctuations are not a conclusive indication that the fever is getting better or worse and parents have to monitor the child carefully for other indications that the condition is improving or not, if at all.
- Febrile seizures may occur in children with a body temperature above 38.9 degrees Celsius/102 degrees Farenheit.
High, Dangerous Fever in Children and Newborns
- A body temperature of 40 degrees Celsius/104 degrees Farenheit or more is considered as a high fever and requires immediate medical attention as this is an emergency.
- In newborns (younger than 28 days), any body temperature above 38.3 degrees Celsius/101 degrees Farenheit should be treated as a medical emergency.
- Even up to the age of 3 months, any body temperature above 38 degrees Celsius should be monitored very closely and if possible, immediate medical attention should be sought.
Best Thermometer Methods for Measuring Body Temperature in Children
A body temperature taken rectally is the best method for determining the core body temperature in a child. In infants younger than 3 months, this is essential in order to be as accurate as possible in determining the body temperature. A reading with a glass rectal thermometer is usually sufficient and other methods are not necessary.
A glass mouth thermometer for recording the oral (mouth) temperature will usually give slight lower readings but is useful as a means to confirm a temperature taken through other methods :
- Ear thermometers have become widely used these days and are quick, convenient and not uncomfortable for the child. A high reading with an ear thermometer should always be confirmed orally.
- Digital mouth thermometers are also a convenient method for assessing the body temperature. A high reading should always be confirmed orally.
- Fever strip thermometers are usually placed on the forehead and are not very reliable. A high reading should always be confirmed orally.
There may be significant variations in readings with ear, digital and fever strip thermometers depending on the brand and these methods should not be used to closely monitor a fever.
- Childhood Fever – Causes of Fevers in Babies (Infants), Children
- What is a Fever (Pyrexia)? Normal and High Body Temperature
Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on July 14, 2010