We’ve all been there. Your baby’s fever spikes during the night when everyone else in the house is asleep, and you hesitate to call the doctor because he’s asleep too! First, let’s talk about what a fever is. According to WebMD, a fever helps your body fight off an infection and sends heat to the germs to make them go away. Such a simple explanation for one of the scariest things a parent can experience.

As a mom and a nurse, I’ve experienced that same feeling of helplessness. A fever is scary, but there are some simple things you can do to make sure you are correctly assessing and treating your child’s fever. Always consult your pediatrician during your baby’s first office visit about how to manage infant fevers. Many times when you call the pediatrician’s office, the nurse is able to give you recommendations (knowing what the physician’s protocol is), and is an excellent resource for a worried parent. Another option is to access the nursing/physician advice (triage) that is offered by your insurance company when your pediatrician office is closed. Call your insurance company (the phone number is on the insurance card) to see if this coverage is provided to you as a subscriber.

Coming from the medical field and being a parent myself, here are some tips I’ve learned over the years that may help you (and your wallet) when your baby gets a fever:

1. Choose the correct thermometer

A digital thermometer is the most accurate and inexpensive tool to measure what a baby’s temperature is. All of us have struggled with getting an accurate temperature with a squirming, crying baby. My favorite way is under the arm. The temperature under the arm will be one degree below what the temperature would be orally. Physicians believe the most accurate temperature is a rectal temperature (which is one degree above an oral temp), but my baby doesn’t agree! (He prefers “under the arm.”) A fever of 100.4 rectally in an infant should be reported immediately to your pediatrician. A good thermometer is a great purchase with those extra rewards bucks that are getting ready to expire!

2. Don’t swaddle the baby in layers

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessary to “sweat out” the fever. Cover your baby with a sheet instead of a heavy blanket as this will make him or her more comfortable. Keep your home temperature comfortable—not hot or cold.

3. Offer hydration frequently

Babies can dehydrate easily. Breast feed often and offer Pedialyte, water, or fruit juice diluted with water. You may even want to try offering a popsicle. Stick with bland foods like bananas or oatmeal as tolerated. Be aware of any indications that the baby is nauseated; if the baby turns away from the bottle or pushes it away, he may not drink. Sign up for the Pedialyte newsletter with promotions for additional savings. Another option if you’re looking to save money on Pedialyte is to make your own. Here’s a simple recipe for homemade Pedialyte.

4. Lukewarm baths may help

Keeping your baby comfortable is the most important goal during a fever. Do not give a cold bath, ice bath or rub down with alcohol. Lukewarm water is best for a feverish baby to prevent shivering. Don’t prolong the bath for an extended period of time.

5. When to medicate

Motrin (ibuprofen) or acetaminophen is recommended for babies with fever. Ask your pediatrician what he/she recommends as well. Some pediatricians recommended alternating Motrin and acetaminophen for better fever control. Always call your pediatrician before giving medication for fever in an infant 3 months of age or younger. Always read the label prior to dosing your baby and make sure you know how much the baby weighs as dosages are tabulated per weight. Do not use aspirin unless your physician recommends it. Even though I may not use it, I like to stockpile Motrin or acetaminophen when I get a great coupon paired with a current sale. Check the box for the longest expiration date.

It’s important to follow evidence-based guidelines regarding a fever. The National Library of Medicine along with the National Institute of Medicine offers valuable information online to worried parents about when to call your pediatrician and when to call 911.
This is a guest post by Tammy, a nurse, from St. Pauls, NC.
5 Simple Tips to Manage Your Baby's Fever