Fever in infants is an immediate concern, especially in younger infants. This is not because the fever could cause harm, but for other reasons:
- Infants are more prone to serious infections, like sepsis (infection of the blood), meningitis (infection of the fluid around the brain), and pneumonia than are older children.
- Infants may not show any other signs of serious infection.
The most significant things are the age of the infant and the height of the fever.
Infants 2 months of age or younger with a fever over 100.5 (rectal) should be seen immediately (even in the middle of the night). If you have any question, please call immediately!
- Don't wait. While it may seem embarrassing to have a child seen in the ER for just a fever, but it is far better to feel awkward than to stay at home when your child has a dangerous infection. Don't be apologetic about bringing your child in; the best-case scenario is that you are over-reacting.
- Don't panic. Most infants with fever are sick with minor problems, so you don't have to panic.
Infants between 2 and 6 months of age should be seen immediately if they have other serious symptoms.
- Lethargy (difficulty to arouse) or Irritability (difficulty to comfort) - This is a judgment call, but it is a significant sign.
- Cough, shortness of breath, abdominal swelling, or diarrhea
If your child appears reasonably well to you in this age, you can probably wait to see what develops:
- Infants from 2-4 months should prompt a message or phone call to let the doctor know about the fever.
- Infants from 4-6 months can wait as long as the child looks OK. Fever lasting more than 3 days should also prompt a message or phone call.
Infants over 6 months can be treated the same as older children.
Since fever is more serious in infants under 6 months of age, do not treat fever with medication (unless otherwise directed) or warm baths. It is an important symptom to follow.