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mother checking son's temperature

What are the Signs of Fever in Nursery Children

08 November 2023

During a child’s first few years of life, particularly when they attend a nursery, it can feel like as soon as they get over one illness, another one is on its way. Fevers in young children may be incredibly common but they can make for a very stressful and upsetting time for parents and children.

A fever is a natural and healthy response to a viral or bacterial infection and in the vast majority of cases, children cope with them. In this article, we will explore how to establish if your child has a fever, what action should be taken to manage it effectively and how to recognise when you need to seek medical attention.

Normal Temperature for Young Children

A normal temperature for a child over 12 months old is between 36.4c and 37.4c but this can vary from child to child. Some children naturally run a cooler temperature whereas others may run slightly higher. 

Medically, a fever presents itself as a body temperature of 38c or higher. This may occur because of the following:

  • Chicken pox
  • Coughs and colds
  • Vaccinations
  • Teething 
  • Stomach bug
  • Covid

How do I take my child’s temperature?

If you think your child may be running a temperature, the most accurate way of checking is to use a digital thermometer. This is placed gently into the ear and measures their temperature. 

Symptoms of a high fever in a baby or child include:

  • Feeling hot to the touch on their forehead, back or tummy
  • Red cheeks
  • Feeling sweaty or clammy
  • Muscle aches or general weakness
  • Chills or sweating 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability

If you take your child’s temperature and find that they are running a fever, your child should be monitored and cared for at home. Paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used to manage the temperature and control the symptoms. Always make sure you read the instructions and give the correct dosage for your child’s age or speak to your doctor. 

If the fever has not subsided after a couple of days, seek medical attention. 

Fever Dos

When your child is running a fever, you should:

  • Make sure they are drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Give them paracetamol and/or ibuprofen to reduce the fever (read the packaging or speak to your doctor for the correct dosage).
  • Remember that they may not feel like eating too much but it is still important to offer food regularly. This may include their favourite foods just to make sure they have eaten something or soft/cold food if they are suffering from a sore throat/tonsilitis. 
  • Check on your child regularly through the night.
  • Keep them at home and offer quiet activities.
  • Dress your child in loose, breathable clothing.

Fever Don’ts

There are some important things that you shouldn’t do if your child is running a fever. These include:

  • Do not undress your child or sponge them down in an attempt to cool their body temperature.
  • Do not wrap them in layers.
  • Do not give aspirin to under 16s.
  • Do not give paracetamol to a child under two months.
  • Do not give ibuprofen to a child under 3 months or under 5kg.
  • Do not give ibuprofen to a child with asthma.

When to seek medical attention

Although fevers in children are generally manageable at home, there are times when they can become more serious. In these instances, you should seek medical attention either in the form of an urgent GP appointment via the 111 service or by calling your doctor's surgery directly. 

You should seek medical attention if your child:

  • Is under three months old and has a temperature of 38c or above.
  • Is 3-6 months old and has a temperature of 39c or above.
  • Has other signs of illness such as a rash as well as a temperature.
  • Has been running a high temperature that has lasted for 5 days or more.
  • Does not want to eat.
  • Is running a fever that does not come down with paracetamol or ibuprofen.
  • Is showing signs of dehydration such as dry nappies, sunken eyes and no tears when crying.

When to call 999 or go straight to A&E

There are rare occasions where a fever could be an indicator of something more serious and will require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of this include:

  • Stiff neck
  • A rash that does not fade when you press a glass against it
  • A febrile convulsion (more information below)
  • Unusually cold hands or feet
  • Blotchy blue or grey skin
  • A weak, high-pitched cry that is not like their normal cry
  • Drowsiness and lethargy
  • Breathing problems or unusual breathing patterns including sucking in under the ribs
  • A soft spot on the head that curves outwards (bulging fontanelle)

Febrile convulsions

In rare cases, a high fever may cause a febrile convulsion. This is also sometimes referred to as a febrile seizure and is triggered by a high fever that spikes very quickly. It can be very frightening to witness, particularly if you have never seen a child experience one before. However, it is important to remember that convulsions are unlikely to cause any harm to your child or cause long-term effects. Symptoms of a febrile convulsion include:

  • Jerking movements, twitching or shaking
  • Becoming very floppy and non-responsive
  • Falling unconscious

If your child displays any of these symptoms for the first time, is having difficulty breathing or has a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes, call 999. Remember that you know your child best. If you are in any doubt about their condition, seek medical help. 

Should I send my child to nursery with a fever?

There are plenty of benefits of nursery, but it is not a place for children if they are sick. If your child has a fever, we advise you to keep them at home

A fever will most likely make them feel unwell and they should rest as much as they can while they get better. It is also worth bearing in mind that most nurseries will not provide your child with paracetamol or ibuprofen to help keep the fever at bay. This would mean that your child would have to tolerate the symptoms of a fever whilst at nursery.

Keeping your child at home while they are running a fever also helps to keep germs at bay and stop the spread of illness to other children. 

There are a couple of exceptions where your child’s nursery may accept your child while they are running a fever. These include:

  • Fever caused by vaccinations - if your child is otherwise well and has just received their vaccinations, staff may be happy to accept them into the nursery even with a fever.
  • Fever caused by teething - this is difficult to prove and will be handled on an individual basis by nursery staff.

Find a Caring Nursery for your Child

A nursery is a place where children can have fun and enjoy exploring the world with their friends. At Abbey Wood Grange Day Nursery and Preschool, our staff are trained to spot the signs of illness in all our children. Our infection control policy is designed to protect other children and staff from sickness and our medication policy is there to protect the child.

If you live in the South Croydon area and require a nursery in Kenley then book a visit with Abbey Wood Grange.