Fever in children

Sometimes parents think that fever is dangerous or that high fever indicates a serious illness. This is usually not true. Parents are often very worried about their child’s fever. Parents are often very worried when the child is sick. They often don’t know anything about fever and are immediately very concerned if the fever rises. There may also be other factors that contribute to their concerns. It is possible that someone close to you has been very ill and had a fever. It could also be their first baby who gets a fever for the first time.

What is fever?

Fever is the body’s response to an invading infection. Because the body can regulate its own temperature, it will rise. Increasing the temperature is important for combating these viruses or bacteria. Bacteria and viruses no longer do well when it gets too hot. So your own immune system can get started to clear out the invaders. Children do not always have to be sick with a fever. They can have a fever of 40 degrees and still be playing. It is therefore not necessary to suppress the fever with paracetamol if the child is not very bothered by the fever. The fever may even rise to 41.7 degrees. But actually the body itself regulates that the fever does not rise so high, so paracetamol is not necessarily needed. Children who have a fever often also have a cold, cough, earache or sore throat.


Children younger than three months old should not actually have a fever yet. Their bodies are still too small and often too weak to deal with an invading virus. If a child younger than 3 months old develops a fever, it is wise to consult a doctor. It is also common for an older child in the family to be ill and infect the baby.

How to measure.

The temperature is preferably measured rectally, as this is the most reliable. An ear thermometer is often not reliable, especially if the child also happens to have an ear infection. Then there is too much interference to give a correct result.

How long can the fever last?

Most sick children suffer from a viral infection. There is still nothing you can do against a virus other than just get sick. A viral infection usually does not remain active for more than three days, so the fever may last about three days. If the child has a fever for more than three days, there is probably something else going on and it is better to consult a doctor.
You also have to keep an eye on the extent of the child’s illness. Some children are ill with a fever of 38 degrees and lie in bed all day, others have a fever of 41 degrees and are still happily hopping around. The height of the fever therefore says nothing about the extent of the illness.

The febrile convulsion

Many parents think that a febrile convulsion is caused by a high fever. This is not true. A febrile convulsion can be caused by a rapid rise in body temperature. So if your temperature rises rapidly from 37 degrees to 39 degrees, you run the risk of a febrile convulsion. Contrary to what many parents think, a febrile seizure can cause brain damage. This is also not true. A febrile convulsion is harmless, but scary to watch.
A febrile convulsion only occurs in children older than 3 months and up to the age of 5 years. If they experience one fever during a period of illness, this is not a problem. If a child has another convulsion during the same period of illness, you must notify a doctor. The same applies to children under three months and older than 5 years.

When to call a doctor

Having a fever and:

  • a febrile convulsion that does not go away, or returns for a second time within a period,
  • seriously ill or groaning
  • drowsy and difficult to wake when sleeping
  • if spots are visible on the body
  • when a baby drinks less than half the normal amount.
  • when the child no longer responds well to being spoken to and sits quietly looking ahead
  • when it whines and cries constantly and cannot be comforted.
  • if short of breath or rapid breathing.
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