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Fever is an acute source of worry for parents and one of the most common reasons that parents seek a pediatrician’s care. However, fever is a common sign of illness, and it is not always a bad thing.
In fact, fever is a normal response of the child’s immune system to a viral or bacterial infection.
Fever is defined as a temperature above 38.0°C (100.4°F). Oral and rectal temperatures are more accurate than temperatures taken under the armpit and forehead. Elevated temperatures taken under the arm or forehead should be confirmed orally or rectally. (1)
Simple Natural Ways to Treat Your Baby’s Fever
Here are some ways to reduce fever in babies.
1. Cold compresses and sponge baths
The first thing you need to do in case your baby develops a fever is to try to cool the body from outside. This is a very effective way of reducing the body temperature.
To cool the body from outside, put a cool, wet washcloth on your baby’s forehead. As the water from the wet washcloth evaporates from the skin, it will draw the fever out and the temperature will come down quickly.
How to use:
- Take some cool tap water in a bowl.
- Soak a clean washcloth in the water.
- Wring out the excess water, then place the wet cloth on the baby’s forehead.
- Once the cloth warms, remove it and repeat again.
You can also use the damp washcloth to sponge areas like your baby’s armpits, feet, hands, and groin to reduce the temperature.
A sponge bath will help relax a fussy baby and also regulate the body temperature.
A sponge bath will even help your baby sleep well, which is important for a faster recovery.
- For babies younger than 6 months old, give a lukewarm sponge bath 2 or 3 times a day.
- For babies 6 months or older, give them a regular bath in lukewarm or cool water a few times a day.
After each bath, dress your baby immediately.
Note: Never use very cold or ice water, as it may cause the baby to shiver and this may further elevate the fever. Very hot water may cause the internal body temperature to rise.
2. Breast milk
A 2016 study published in Breastfeeding Medicine found that exclusive or predominant breastfeeding, as opposed to formula or partial breastfeeding, of infants less than 1 month of age reduces the risk of neonatal fever-related hospitalization by over two-fold. (3)
Also, breast milk offers a unique balance of nutrients that strengthens a baby’s weak immune system and is tailored to fight a baby’s illness.
Breast milk is quickly and easily digested. It will even keep a sick baby properly hydrated, which is essential for faster recovery.
- Try to breastfeed your young baby frequently. If your baby refuses to nurse while experiencing a fever, try different nursing positions. You can keep the baby upright while breastfeeding to make your baby more comfortable during feeding sessions.
- If your baby regularly refuses to nurse, pump out the breast milk and feed it to your baby using a spoon or bottle.
3. Give more fluids
Increased fluid intake is important for babies suffering from fever. Fluid helps cool them down and also replaces the fluid lost due to sweating. This, in turn, prevents dehydration, which often leads to various other complications and delays the recovery.
Babies may refuse large amounts of fluid at a time due to fever. So, try to give them smaller amounts more often.
- Give oral rehydration solutions (either homemade or readily available in the market) to babies younger than 6 months old to help replenish fluids and electrolytes.
- Along with oral rehydration solutions, cold milk, ice pops, fruit juice, and chilled yogurt can be given to babies 6 months or older.
4. Try apple cider vinegar
If your baby is 1 year or older, then you can try this apple cider vinegar remedy. Because apple cider vinegar helps draw heat out of the body, it can help reduce a high body temperature.
A 2012 study published in Scientific & Academic Publishing reports that vinegar compress is helpful when there is a need to rapidly lower the patient’s temperature. (4)
How to use:
- Add ¼ cup of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a large bowl of lukewarm water.
- Soak a washcloth in it, then wring out the excess liquid.
- Use this damp cloth to give your baby a sponge bath.
- Repeat 2 or 3 times a day until the fever has dropped.
5. Ensure proper rest and sleep
When it comes to fever in babies, adequate rest and sleep is a must.
The body heals and repairs itself during sleep, which in turn helps the body fight any kind of infection. A 2015 study supports the idea that post-infection sleep helps to improve survival. (5)
So, it is important to make your child rest or sleep as much as possible. You can help your child stay in the bed with fun books and games.
Do not allow your child to play outside or run around the house, as it will worsen the cough.
6. Dress your infant comfortably
Many parents make the mistake of bundling up their sick child with layers of clothes or extra blankets. This is something parents should avoid doing, as it may keep the temperature from going down or even make it go higher.
Infants cannot regulate their temperature well, hence when bundled in layers, it will be harder for them to cool down once overheated. Too much clothing will even prevent radiating body heat into the surrounding air.
Dress your baby in one layer of lightweight clothing. If needed, use a light blanket when your baby is sleeping.
Also, keep your baby in a comfortable room, where the temperature is not too hot or too cool.
Causes of Fever
The most common cause of fever in babies is a viral or bacterial infection, such as an ear infection, upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, and nonspecific viral infections.
Fever in babies can also be due to the body’s response to immunization or vaccines. Elevated temperature may also be caused by illnesses related to heat exposure.
Symptoms of Fever
One of the major signs of fever that parents notice is that their child is feeling warm to touch. This is not necessarily an accurate indicator, because although a warm forehead is a common sign of fever in babies, it does not always indicate the presence of fever.
Other symptoms of fever include poor sleeping, poor eating, lack of interest in playing, less active, or even being lethargic. Babies may also seem crankier and fussier than usual.
Some children will have convulsions when they have a fever. This is a benign condition known as febrile seizures and, although concerning for parents, it is not considered a serious medical condition.
Additional Tips to Deal With Fever in Babies
- Take your baby’s temperature regularly and note it down on a notepad. This will help the doctor assess the changes that have occurred during the days when your baby is not well.
- Check on your sick baby from time to time, even during the night.
- Monitor your baby and if you notice signs of dehydration and rashes, consult a doctor immediately.
- Your baby should urinate at least every 4 hours and the urine should be light colored.
- If your child is inconsolable and doesn’t stop crying, consult your doctor.
- Do not send your baby to daycare until he or she recovers fully.
- If your baby is fussy, try to rock your baby while walking to ease his or her distress.
- Do not leave a small child with a fever alone for any length of time.
- You can give solid food to your baby during a fever, but do not force it.
- If your doctor has prescribed medicine, never give more than the recommended dosage to your child.
- Always use a measuring device to give medication.
- Don’t treat fever in children under 18 years of age with aspirin, as it can lead to serious health problems.
- Make sure to keep your baby up to date with all of his or her immunizations.
- To calm your fussy baby, you may rub some warm oil on the sick baby’s feet to relax him or her and promote better sleep. A 2006 study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews reports that massage helps in promoting mental and physical health in infants aged less than six months. (6) However, be careful not to overdo it.
When to See a Doctor
In younger babies, fever could be a sign of a serious infection because of an immature immune system. If your child is under 6 months old and has a fever, have them evaluated by their physician right away.
If your child has additional symptoms like cold, cough, vomiting or diarrhea then you may also want to consult your doctor. Moreover, as a parent, always trust your instincts. If you feel the need to contact the doctor, then you definitely should.
Under normal circumstances, fever lasts about 3–5 days, and most healthy children can tolerate it well. If your child’s fever lasts more than 5 days, then they should be evaluated by their doctor.
Remember not to give your baby OTC medications at home without first consulting your child’s doctor for dosing and medication guidance. In any situation, along with the medicines prescribed by your doctor, you can follow the following tips to help manage or reduce your baby’s fever.