Information for parents and carers
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What is a fever?
A fever is an increase in your child’s body temperature above 38oC (100.4oF). This is a natural and healthy response to infection. Fever in children is common, but it can cause anxiety (worry) for parents and carers.
Almost all children recover quickly and without any problems. However, in a very small number of children, the fever may not improve or the child’s health may get worse, which can sometimes be a sign of a serious illness or infection.
What causes fevers?
Viral infections are the most common cause of a fever. Viral infections cause many common illnesses, such as coughs, colds, flu or sickness and diarrhoea.
Bacterial infections are less common than viral infections, but also cause high temperatures. Bacteria are more likely to cause serious illnesses, such as pneumonia and meningitis.
Other types of infections, such as malaria. This is not common in the UK.
How can I help my child?
If your baby is less than 3 months old, you must seek medical advice.
- Keep your child cool.
- Give your child lots of fluids to drink.
- Keep your house cool. Open a window if the room feels warm, but do not cause a draught.
- Not put too many clothes or covers on your child.
- Never wrap a feverish child.
- Never tepid or cold sponge your child as this can cause shivering which can make their temperature rise further.
You should take your child to see their GP or call NHS 111 if your child:
- Is not drinking.
- Is not passing water (peeing) much.
- Has persistent vomiting (being sick).
- Has signs of dehydration such as a dry mouth or no tears.
- Is drowsy.
- Generally seems more unwell.
- Has fast breathing.
- Has a fever lasting more than 5 days even if you are not worried about anything else.
- Has extreme shivering or complaints of muscle pain.
When should I seek urgent medical advice?
You must bring your child to the nearest Children’s and Young Person’s Emergency Department immediately or phone 999 if your child:
- Is difficult to wake.
- Is refusing to drink.
- Is vomiting repeatedly.
- Is complaining of the light hurting their eyes.
- Has blue lips.
- Is very irritable or has an unusual cry.
- Becomes very pale.
- Develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure (see the ‘tumbler test’ below).
- Is finding it hard to breathe, too breathless to talk.
To manage your child’s fever at home, you should:
- Check your child regularly during the day and night to make sure they are not getting worse.
- Do the tumbler test (see guidance below) if a rash appears.
- Follow the advice on the next page if you are worried your child is not improving.
- Not overdress a child with a fever.
- Remove some of their clothing if they are hot to touch, to help cool them down.
- Offer small drinks often.
- Keep your child away from nursery or school while they are unwell.
What medicines should I use to help?
- You may use paracetamol or ibuprofen to help your child feel more comfortable.
- Paracetamol and ibuprofen should never be given at the exact same time. However, you may give either paracetamol or ibuprofen first and then, if your child has not improved by the next dose of the chosen medicine is due you may want to consider using the other medicine.
- You must follow the instructions provided in the leaflet supplied with your medicine bottle for the right dose for your child’s age.
- Your pharmacist can give you more advice about medicines.
- Never give aspirin to a child.
The tumbler test
Do the ‘tumbler test’ if your child has a rash. This helps to work out if your child has Meningitis.
Press a glass tumbler firmly against the rash. If you can see the spots through the glass and they do not fade, this is called a ‘non-blanching rash’. If this rash is present, seek medical advice immediately.
The rash is harder to see on dark skin, so check paler areas, such as palms of the hands, soles of the feet and tummy.
You know your child best. If you have any concerns, or need any further information, contact the Children’s and Young Person’s Emergency Department (see contact numbers at the end of this leaflet).
University Hospital of North Tees
Children’s and Young Person’s Emergency Department
24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you have any worries or concerns you should contact your GP during normal surgery hours. Outside surgery hours, you should contact your GP’s surgery for the Out of Hours Service number.
Telephone: 01642 624533
Calls to this number are free from landlines and mobiles
When it is less urgent than 999 call 111
Information used in the development of this leaflet
Fever in under 5s: assessment and initial management, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), Guideline [NG143], Published: 07 November 2019, Last updated: 26 November 2021, https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/NG143
Fever in under 5s, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), Quality standard [QS64], Published: 24 July 2014, https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs64
Comments, concerns, compliments or complaints
Patient Experience Team (PET)
We are continually trying to improve the services we provide. We want to know what we’re doing well or if there’s anything which we can improve, that’s why the Patient Experience Team (PET) is here to help. Our Patient Experience Team is here to try to resolve your concerns as quickly as possible. The office is based on the ground floor at the University Hospital of North Tees if you wish to discuss concerns in person. If you would like to contact or request a copy of our PET leaflet, please contact:
Telephone: 01642 624719
Freephone: 0800 092 0084
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9:30am to 4:00pm
Email: [email protected]
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Telephone: 01642 617617
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Telephone: 01642 383551
Email: [email protected]Privacy Notices
This leaflet has been produced in partnership with patients and carers. All patient leaflets are regularly reviewed, and any suggestions you have as to how it may be improved are extremely valuable. Please write to the Clinical Governance team, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospital of North Tees, TS19 8PE or:
Email: [email protected]
Leaflet Reference: PIL1376
Date for Review: 24/11/2025