Infant and Toddler Fever

Infant and toddler fever is a common occurrence. A fever is when the body temperature is elevated. The normal body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius(37 C) or 98.6 degrees Farenheit (98.6 F). Once the temperature reaches 38 C or 101 F, we call that fever (or we say the child is febrile or is running a temperature).

It is such a worry when your baby feels hot and has a high temperature. You feel you must bring the temperature down. You are concerned that your baby may be very sick. Don't worry too much. Being febrile is a normal body response and all babies will have a high temperature (have a fever) at some stage.

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This page will give you information on what to do about the high temperature and why an infant or toddler fever occurs. There are sections on:


The most common cause of an infant or toddler fever is an upper respiratory tract infection. These are nearly always caused by viruses, so no antibiotic treatment is required. Other infections may also cause fever and to read specific advice on these illnesses that can cause fever in babies and toddlers you can also go to the infections page.

To read about the signs of serious illnessclick here

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Elevating the body temperature is the way the body responds to infection or inflammation. It is good that the body can mount a response to such invasion and fever is an important part of that response. Having an elevated body temperature (having a fever or being febrile), though, can make your baby or child feel miserable. You know yourself that being febrile can make you feel awful. Actually, the elevated body temperature also makes bugs like bacteria and viruses uncomfortable, and that is what we want.Infant or toddler fever in itself is not a bad thing. Being febrile can be a sign of a serious illness and the serious illness might cause problems if not treated, but the temperature in itself rarely causes problems.

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Sometimes mothers feel that it is essential that they always treat the temperature as it can cause damage to the brain or cause convulsions (so called febrile seizures or fever fits). This is not actually correct. Babies and toddlers who have febrile seizures do not get damage to the brain and we know that trying to keep the temperature under control with medication will not stop febrile seizures. It is not the height of the infant or toddler fever that predicts a febrile seizure and sometimes children have a febrile seizure before any temperature has been noticed. So trying to keep the temperature down is not the answer.

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If your baby or toddler has a fever and is shivering, then it may indicate a bacterial infection - your baby or toddler is likely to be unwell in other ways as well and you should see your doctor as antibiotics may be required.

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Medications such as Paracetamol (Acetaminophen in North America) or Ibuprofen can make babies and children who are febrile feel more comfortable. Often they also bring the body temperature down. Our aim when we prescribe these medications is to make your baby or toddler feel more comfortable not necessarily to bring the temperature down (which is just an indication that the body is doing its job). 
But medications are not without side effects and should only be used when necessary - read more.

For doses of medications, click here.

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If your child has an elevated temperature

  • do not worry if she is well in herself, even if the temperature is elevated
  • keep her comfortable. If she is miserable and has fever of 38.5 C (101.3 F) or more, give Paracetamol (Acetaminophen) or Ibuprofen. I usually advise using Paracetamol (Acetaminophen) first and only add in Ibuprofen if that doesn't work within an hour or so
  • if there are signs of serious illness associated with the fever, see your doctor
  • if your child has a fever and shivering, this may indicate a bacterial illness - see your doctor if your child is unwell with this
  • if the temperature is above 40.5 C or 105 F, she may have a bacterial infection. See your doctor is this high temperature persists or your child is unwell
  • see your doctor if the high temperature persists for more than 5 days, particularly if your child is miserable
  • a temperature as high as 42 C or 107.6 F is uncommon but is dangerous if it persists at this level for any length of time, so seek urgent medical advice if your child's temperature is this high at any time.

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To go to the top of the Infant and Toddler Fever page, click here

To read more about Febrile Seizures (convulsions), click here - read about this relatively common condition in children. You will learn about benign convulsions and complex seizures. Remember infant and toddler fever is nothing to panic about.

To read about the treatment of febrile seizures (convulsions), click here - read about what to do if your child has a seizure (convulsion) and what the research shows about preventing further seizures (convulsions) with toddler fever

If your child has fever with vomiting or diarrhea, click here - read about gastroenteritis and its management

If your child has any ear nose throat symptoms, click here - for more information on upper respiratory tract infections, the common cold, ear infections and tonsillitis which are a common reason for a toddler fever

To read about symptoms of serious illness, click here - read about the symptoms that are seen in seriously ill babies and toddlers.

Always see your doctor if you are very worried about your baby or toddler

For dosages of medications used in fever, click here

To go to the Infections page, click here - has links to pages with information on specific infections, including pneumonia and urinary tract infection

To return to the Home page, click here 


Last reviewed on 31 May 2011

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Dr Maud MD

Dr Maud MD (MBChB, FRACP, FRCPCH), a specialist pediatrician, provides health information and medical advice for parents of babies and toddlers. Read more about Dr Maud.



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