A fever occurs when your child's body temperature is higher than normal. Normal body temperature varies a little, but a temperature above 38°C is considered a fever.
Why does it happen?
Fever in young children usually means that they have an underlying infection. This understandably worries parents and carers.
- Most fevers in young children over 6 months of age are not serious.
- Fever in children aged 3-6 months has a higher chance of being serious. You should seek medical advice if the temperature is 39°C or more.
- Fever in a baby aged less than 3 months is unusual and worrying. You should seek medical advice if the temperature is 38°C or more.
When young children have a fever, if can be difficult for parents to work out why. In most cases, the fever is due to a non-serious viral infection. Many viral infections that affect young children cause a fever of up to 48 hours in duration before other symptoms develop. A small number of common viruses cause fevers that last longer than this.
Further reading and references
Feverish illness in children - Assessment and initial management in children younger than 5 years; NICE Guideline (Updated August 2017)
Feverish child - risk assessment; NICE CKS, September 2013 (UK access only)
Thompson M, Van den Bruel A, Verbakel J, et al; Systematic review and validation of prediction rules for identifying children Health Technol Assess. 2012 Mar16(15):1-100.
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