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When to Take Your Baby to the Hospital for a High Fever

by
author image Lynn Hetzler
Lynn Hetzler has been a writer since 2000. She was editor in chief and head writer for the online publication Eye on Cameraware. She owns a computer store offering repair, websites, instruction, and more. Hetzler is a certified medical assistant with experience in oncology, laboratory testing and protocol writing.
When to Take Your Baby to the Hospital for a High Fever
Your baby's overall condition helps determine whether to take him to the hospital for a fever. Photo Credit SW Productions/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Nine out of 10 late-night phone calls to physicians come from parents worrying about their baby suffering from a high fever, according to Cincinnati Children’s. Doctors consider fever anything above the body’s normal oral temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When trying to decide whether to take your baby to the hospital for a fever, consider how sick your child seems. Take into account his age, lethargy, length of illness and any other symptoms, like seizures or unresponsiveness. Learn when to take your baby to the hospital by assessing his condition.

Call 911

Call 911 if your child has a fever and is unresponsive, difficult to rouse, not moving or is very weak. Your baby needs immediate medical care if her lips are blue or she is having difficulty breathing. Contact medical help immediately if you note purple or blood-colored dots or spots on her skin along with her fever.

Age and Fever Thresholds

The most worrisome fever is one in a baby less than 3 months old, according to Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Take a child 3 months or younger to a doctor right away if he has a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and no other symptoms. A rectal temperature, recommended for children this young, is one degree warmer than an oral temperature. You can also take a child’s temperature under his arm; his axillary temperature will be one degree cooler than an oral temperature. Take your baby to the doctor if he is less than 3 months old and has an axillary temperature higher than 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Accompanying Symptoms

The symptoms accompanying your child’s fever will help you decide when to take your baby to the hospital. Your baby needs medical help if she is febrile and looks or acts very ill, is not alert when she is awake or is confused. Take to her the hospital if you note a bulge or your baby seems to have a stiff neck.

Cause

Take your baby to the hospital if you cannot determine the cause of fever. Viral infection is the most common cause of fever that appears suddenly but it may take several hours after exposure for the fever to begin. A fever is a sign that the baby’s body is fighting off an infection. When your baby’s body senses a bacterial or viral invasion, her immune system reacts by raising her temperature to make her body a less hospitable place for the bacteria or virus. Teething does not usually cause significant fever greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Febrile Seizures

Sudden and drastic spikes in temperature may cause febrile seizures, or a convulsion associated with a high temperature, in 3 to 5 percent of the population. These seizures occur only with a rapid rise in fever and are generally harmless but very scary to witness in babies, especially for anxious parents. Take your baby to the hospital if she has a febrile seizure and discuss preventative medicine with the doctors there.

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