Part of the body’s natural response

A child with a significant fever will have a body temperature above 38°C. Your child may also feel tired, look pale, have a poor appetite, be irritable, have a headache or other aches and pains and feel generally unwell. Take the temperature from the armpit, using an electronic thermometer or use an ear thermometer. Remember that measurements from under the arm are less accurate as the armpit is slightly cooler.

A fever is part of the body’s natural response to fight infection and can often be left to run its course provided your child is drinking enough and is otherwise well. If your child is having trouble drinking, trying to reduce their temperature may help with this. This is important to prevent your child from becoming dehydrated, which can cause kidney problems. Your child’s urine should be pale yellow - if it is darker, your child needs to drink more fluids.

Fevers are common in young children. They are usually caused by viral infections and clear up without treatment. However, a fever can occasionally be a sign of a more serious illness such as a severe bacterial infection of the blood (septicaemia), urinary tract infection, pneumonia or meningitis.

You should also contact your GP if fever symptoms are not improving after 48 hours. Check your child during the night.

Always seek medical advice if your child develops a fever soon after an operation, or soon after travelling abroad.

GP says

When looking after a feverish child at home you should:

  • Get the child to drink more.

  • Look for signs of dehydration: Dry mouth, sunken eyes, no tears, poor overall appearance.

  • If your child is dehydrated contact your GP or call 111.

  • Know how to identify a meningitis rash.

  • Check child during the night.

Source: NICE, Feverish illness in children/2013

A little fever isn’t usually a worry for an older child. Contact your GP if your child seems unusually ill, has a high temperature which doesn’t come down or is having difficulty breathing. With children over five it’s not so much the temperature to look out for but the other symptoms. It’s important to encourage your child to drink as much fluid as possible. Water is best.

To help reduce temperature:

  • Keep room at a comfortable temperature (18°C).

  • Encourage your child to drink more (even little amounts often).

  • Give sugar-free paracetamol or ibuprofen in the correct recommended dose for your child (see packaging).


My child is hot and grumpy.


Have you tried paracetamol? Have you made sure they are drinking as usual?


If their temperature remains over 38˚C and doesn’t come down, contact your GP.