Fever in children and toddlers: taking their temperature

The normal body temperature is between 36.5°C and 37.5°C.

If your child has temperature above 37 °C, he or she may be having a fever. But then, that depends on where you took the temperature. Temperature taken from different parts of the body with different thermometers give different readings. Temperature above 39°C is considered high fever and should consult the doctor.

Use a reliable thermometer to tell if your child has a fever when his or her temperature is at or above one of these levels (according to Singapore Health Promotion Board):

37.9°C measured tympanically (in the ear)
37.5°C measured orally (in the mouth)
37.2°C measured in an axillary position (under the arm)

However, it is also important to read the manufacturer's instructions for each thermometer reading range for evaluating fever.

What causes fever?
It's important to remember that fever by itself is not an illness — it's usually a symptom of an underlying problem. Fever has several potential causes:

Infection: Most fevers are caused by infection or other illness. Fever helps the body fight infections by stimulating natural defense mechanisms.

Overdressing: Infants, especially newborns, may get fevers if they're overbundled or in a hot environment because they don't regulate their body temperature as well as older children. However, because fevers in newborns can indicate a serious infection, see a doctor immediately if you suspect your infant is having a fever.

Immunizations: Babies and children sometimes get a low-grade fever after getting vaccinated.

As a general rule of thumb, consult the pediatrician or doctor when your child:
  • Is feeding poorly, vomiting or lethargic.
  • Is very young, especially less than 3 months old.
  • Has difficulty breathing .
  • Is drowsy.
  • Looks sicker than previously.
  • Has abdominal pain and discomfort.
  • Has rash.
  • Has decreased urine output.


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