Fever, childhood

Page last reviewed: 13/07/2011

A normal temperature is between 36 and 36.8ºC (96.8 and 98.24ºF). In children, any temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or above is considered high and is classed as a fever. To find out if your child has a fever, place a thermometer under their armpit or use a special ear thermometer.

Can I give my child painkillers?

Some painkillers are only suitable for children over a certain age or in small doses. Always read the label to make sure you give the correct dosage for your child's age and do not exceed the stated dose. Follow these tips from the clinical knowledge service or speak to your GP or pharmacist if you aren't sure.

  • Babies aged between two and three months old can have children's liquid paracetamol, as long as they weigh over 4kg (9lb) and weren't born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy). This can be bought over the counter. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for the correct dose. Doctors can sometimes make different dosage recommendations.
  • They can have up to two doses four to six hours apart, but if the fever doesn't get better, or if your baby is ill for any other reason, it's important to seek medical advice.
  • Children and babies over three months old can be given paediatric paracetamol oral suspension (liquid paracetamol). Older children can take tablets, or tablets dissolved in water. However, don't give paracetamol if there is a history of any previous adverse reactions, or sensitivity to paracetamol.
  • Children and babies over three months old can also have ibuprofen as long as they weigh over 5kg (11lb) and they don't have a history of asthma, heart problems, kidney problems, stomach ulcers or indigestion. However, you shouldn't give your child ibuprofen if they have a history of any previous adverse reactions or sensitivity to it. Speak to your GP or pharmacist if you're unsure.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 16.
  • Keep all medicines out of the reach of children and in a locked cupboard. Do not leave medicines out. If you need to remind yourself, write yourself a note.


Page last reviewed: 13/07/2011

Children with any of the following symptoms are at a high risk of serious illness:

  • Unable to be woken up or if woken, does not stay awake.
  • A weak or high-pitched continuous cry.
  • Pale or mottled skin.
  • Reduced skin turgor (or elasticity).
  • Bile-stained vomiting.
  • Moderate or severe chest in-drawing.
  • Grunting.
  • Bulging fontanelle (this is the squashy part of a child's forehead).

Children with any of the following symptoms are in the intermediate risk group for serious illness:

  • Difficult to wake up.
  • Decreased activity.
  • Poor feeding in infants.
  • Not responding normally/no smiles.
  • Dry mucous membranes (mouth/nose/eyelids).
  • Reduced urine output.
  • Pale skin.
  • Nasal flaring (suggesting a difficulty in breathing).

Children with any of the following are at low risk of serious illness:

  • Strong cry or not crying.
  • Content and smiling.
  • Stays awake.
  • Normal skin, lip and tongue colour.
  • Normal eyes.
  • Moist mucous membranes.
  • Normal response to people (smiling etc).

Download your copy of the latest UK NICE guidance on feverish illness in children.

Content provided by NHS Choices www.nhs.uk and adapted for Ireland by the Health A-Z.

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