Your baby’s fever might alarm you, but it’s a sign that her body is producing plenty of antibodies and white blood cells to fight infection. If the fever isn’t making her miserable and her behavior is normal, you don’t need to bring it down. If your baby is having trouble eating or sleeping, you can take steps to make her more comfortable by lowering her fever.
When to See a Doctor
Depending on your baby’s age and temperature, you might need to take him to the pediatrician instead of attempting to lower his fever. Babies younger than three months old should see a doctor for fevers of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Babies between three and six months old with fevers of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher should be taken to a doctor. Babies between six and 12 months old should see a doctor for fevers of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
Over-the-counter pain relievers containing ibuprofen or acetaminophen can reduce fever. Consult your pediatrician before administering these, especially if your baby is already taking a prescription medication for a cough or cold that might contain a pain reliever. Make sure that you give your baby a pain reliever intended for infants, which comes in the form of drops that are given orally. Follow the dosage instructions recommended by your pediatrician and measure the drops carefully using an oral syringe or the dropper that comes with the medication. Ibuprofen often works better at reducing fevers of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, but it should not be given to babies under six months old, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. You should also avoid giving ibuprofen to your baby if he’s vomiting or dehydrated.
Do not give your baby aspirin, since this could increase her risk of getting a rare but potentially deadly disorder called Reye’s syndrome.
If you’re having trouble giving your baby medication, a lukewarm sponge bath might help bring his fever down instead. Fill the tub with two inches of warm water that measures between 98.6 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit on a bath thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer, check the temperature by placing your wrist in the water to make sure it isn’t hot or too cold. Place your baby in the tub and keep her in a cradled or sitting position so you can support her head and back if she can’t hold her head up on her own. Wipe her body with a sponge or washcloth for 20 minutes. If your baby starts to shiver, take her out of the water and wrap her in a towel, since shivering can cause her temperature to rise. You can add warm water to the tub and resume bathing her when she stops shivering. Dry your baby off with a towel and cover her with a thin blanket after her bath. Check her temperature after 30 minutes and give her another bath if the fever hasn’t gone down.
Don’t use rubbing alcohol on your baby to lower his fever. This used to be a common practice, but is no longer recommended, according to Dr. Jo Ann Royhans. The alcohol can enter your baby’s bloodstream through his skin and can also cause his temperature to rise to dangerous levels by cooling him off too fast.
Placing a cool washcloth on your baby’s forehead can provide her with some relief. Avoid dressing her in too many layers or covering her with a heavy blanket, since this can raise her temperature.