Fever is a positive respond of the body which indicates that baby’s immune system is fighting against an underlying disease. As a newborn’s immune system is immature, your baby may not have a fever with infection or illness. Fever in newborns most likely to be associated with more serious illness. If your baby’s rectal temperature reading is 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, call a doctor or a pediatrician immediately.
What causes fever in Newborns?
Fever is a common symptom in adults and children when their immune system fight against an infection. Only half of the newborns will show a fever as a result of an infection. However, premature newborns might have a lowered body with infection or other signs such as a change in behavior, feeding, or skin color.
Some parents over protect their newborns by overdressing them with many layers of clothing and blankets. This may cause the new baby to overheat. Overheat can occur in many situations including at home near a heater, when stayed in a heated car, exposing to direct sunlight etc. Sometimes, the temperature can rise quickly and cause something serious such as a heat stroke.
If your baby is overheated, she/he may have a hot, red, flushed face and may act restless. Keep the room temperature at a normal rate about 72°F to 75°F (22.2°C to 24° C), dress your baby in light clothes and avoid above mentioned scenarios to prevent overheating.
- Low fluid intake or dehydration
A rise of body temperature in newborns can occur due to dehydration. Some babies do not take enough fluids around the second or third day after birth. The fluids should be replaced with increased feedings; otherwise, dehydration can cause series of complicated issues.
In extreme cases, intravenous (IV) fluids may be needed to treat dehydration. If your newborn is not creating at least 4 wet diapers a day, you may have to contact the pediatrician and examine the baby.
- Bacterial Meningitis
This is a very rare cause of a fever. In such cases, it indicates that your newborn has bacterial or viral meningitis. Physicians may have to examine your baby to determine the cause and recommend relevant treatments afterward. However, bacterial meningitis is a life-threating disease and immediate treatments are crucial for the baby’s health.
How to check your newborn baby’s temperature
The most accurate method to take newborns temperature is rectal. But, some parents do not find this method very appealing and in that case, axillary (under the armpit) method can be used.
Take the temperature rectally
- Clean the thermometer with lukewarm soapy water and rinse it well with cool water.
- Place your baby on his/her stomach facing down across your lap or a table.
- Coat the tip of the thermometer with some moisturizing cream or petroleum jelly (this may reduce discomfort for the baby) and insert into the rectum for about half an inch.
- Keep the baby still and hold the thermometer with one hand so it will move with the baby.
- Hold the thermometer until its electronic timer beeps or signals.
- Remove the thermometer carefully and wipe the bulb.
- Take the temperature reading immediately and write down the temperature, date, and time of day.
- Clean the thermometer with rubbing alcohol or with soapy water.
Take the temperature axillary
- Clean the thermometer with soapy water.
- Place the top of the thermometer in your baby’s armpit.
- Keep the baby’s arm still and pushed against the body.
- Clean the thermometer with rubbing alcohol or with soapy water
The normal axillary temperature range is 98.0°F to 98.8°F (36.7°C to 37.1°C). If you are not sure about this reading, take your newborn baby’s temperature rectally.
Treatment for fever in newborn babies
Never give your newborn pre-approved medications at home unless it is recommended by a doctor after a thorough physical examination. If the baby has a fever, take them to the nearest hospital or to a pediatrician for further evaluation. The doctor may recommend giving acetaminophen for your newborn and the dosage changes according to baby’s condition.
If your newborn is having a fever, increase the number of feedings per day to avoid dehydration. Even then, if your baby is having a dry mouth, dried eyes, sunken fontanelle or dry skin, you may need to give him an intravenous (IV) fluids to prevent extreme dehydration. Another important symptom of dehydration is not providing enough wet diapers per day. In this case, there is nothing much you can do at home without getting a medical opinion.
If your newborn has a high temperature, you can give them a sponge bath using lukewarm water. But, always meet a doctor before trying out home remedies. Newborns’ fever can be caused by a serious illness and any visible symptom should not be masked before getting a complete physical examination.
Newborns can get sick very easily as their immune system is yet to be developed. Fortunately, they also respond quickly to treatments, if the cause of the fever is diagnosed in time. When the cause is associated with an infection, it can create series of other illnesses. Therefore, it is highly recommended to bring your newborn to the doctor immediately so that they can begin the treatments as soon as possible.