How to… deal with a high temperature in toddlers

High temperatures are common with many childhood illnesses, but young children, particularly below the age of four, have difficulty with controlling extreme temperatures.

Typically, most children become unwell out of doctor surgery hours. Always being prepared to deal with high temperatures is essential.

The ideal body temperature is around 37 degrees Celsius and is controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain.

A high temperature is between 38 – 43 degrees.
A child with a temperature above 40 degrees should be checked out quickly by a doctor.

What you need

A digital ear thermometer is practically a necessity for parents. They may be a bit pricey, but they provide fast, accurate results. If your child has been sleeping, do allow around ten minutes after waking to let the temperature settle first.

When a child’s temperature rises, an effective method of dealing with it at home is by using infant paracetamol and ibuprofen. Both medicines can be given at the same time, ideally staggered for maximum benefit. Only one paracetamol product should be given at a time. Always read the label and consult your pharmacist.

Keep a list of important numbers by the phone

Three key numbers will be:

Doctor’s surgery
Out of hours doctor’s number
NHS Direct

It is also ideal to keep details of your doctor’s name and surgery details with these numbers for anyone who is looking after your child when you are not there. In a medical emergency, these details will always be asked and panic can stop a parent from remembering them.

Keep a feverish child cool and be aware that high temperatures can trigger a febrile convulsion.

Remove all excessive clothing and bedclothes, right down to nappy or pants if necessary. Open a window to keep your home cool. Some medical experts recommend sponging a child down with tepid but not cold water.

If your child is unwell out of hours, it is best to get some advice from your own doctor’s out of hours service. You will usually be assessed and called back by a local doctor who can advise you to come into to their local out of hours surgery.

If your child is extremely unwell, or your instincts say otherwise, go straight to your nearest accident and emergency. Make sure you are aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis.

For more information about the signs and symptoms of meningistis, or dealing with febrile convulsions:

Chopsy Baby Child Health and Illness Section