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Fever in a Newborn Baby

Fever in a Newborn Baby

The system that controls body temperature is not well developed in a newborn baby. Call your baby's healthcare provider right away if your baby is younger than 3 months old and has a rectal or forehead (temporal) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher.  This is an emergency. You will need to take your baby to the closest emergency room (ER) for assessment.

Taking your baby’s temperature

Use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Don’t use a mercury thermometer. There are different kinds and uses of digital thermometers. The types you can use on a newborn baby are:

  • Rectal. For children younger than 3 years, a rectal temperature is the most accurate.

  • Armpit (axillary). This is the least reliable but may be used for a first pass to check a child of any age with signs of illness. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Forehead (temporal). This works for children age 3 months and older. If a child under 3 months old has signs of illness, this can be used for a first pass. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

Use the rectal thermometer with care. Follow the product maker’s directions for correct use. Insert it gently. Label it and make sure it’s not used in the mouth. It may pass on germs from the stool. If you don’t feel OK using a rectal thermometer, ask the healthcare provider what type to use instead. When you talk with any healthcare provider about your child’s fever, tell him or her which type you used.

Below are guidelines to know if your young child has a fever. Your child’s healthcare provider may give you different numbers for your child. Follow your provider’s specific instructions.

Fever readings for a baby under 3 months old:

  • First, ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead: 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 99°F (37.2°C) or higher

Infection

A fever is common when an adult has an infection. In newborns, fever may or may not occur with an infection. A newborn may actually have a low body temperature with an infection. They may also have changes in activity, feeding, or skin color.

Overheating

It’s important to keep a baby from becoming chilled. But a baby can also become overheated with many layers of clothing and blankets. An overheated baby may have a hot, red, or flushed face, and may be restless. To avoid overheating:

  • Keep your baby away from any source of heat. For example, a room heater, fireplace, heating vent, or direct sunlight.

  • Keep your home at about 72°F to 75°F.

  • Dress your baby comfortably. A baby doesn't need more clothing than you do.

  • Cars can get very hot. Be extra careful when dressing your baby to go for a car ride.

Too little fluids (dehydration)

Newborns may not take in enough breastmilk or formula. This may cause an increase in body temperature. If you think your baby isn't eating enough of either breastmilk or formula, call the healthcare provider. Make sure you know how to check your baby's temperature and have a thermometer. Call your baby's healthcare provider right away if your baby has a fever.

When to call the healthcare provider

Call your baby's healthcare provider right away if your baby is younger than 3 months old and has a rectal temperature or forehead (temporal) of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. This is an emergency. You will need to take your baby to the closest emergency room (ER) for assessment.

Reviewed Date: 05-01-2021

Fever in A Newborn
Neonatology/NICU
Dr. Rachel Armentrout
Dr. W. Thomas Bass
Dr. Kathryn Colacchio
Dr. Deborah Devendorf
Dr. Susannah Dillender
Dr. Rebecca Dorner
Dr. C W Gowen
Dr. Glen Green
Dr. Edward Karotkin
Dr. Jamil Khan
Dr. Kirk Sallas
Dr. Tushar Shah
Dr. Brett Siegfried
Dr. Kenneth Tiffany
Health Tips
Taking Baby's Temperature
Diseases & Conditions
Anatomy of a Newborn Baby’s Skull
Assessments for Newborn Babies
Baby's Care After Birth
Breast Milk Collection and Storage
Breastfeeding and Delayed Milk Production
Breastfeeding at Work
Breastfeeding Difficulties - Baby
Breastfeeding Difficulties - Mother
Breastfeeding Your Baby
Breastfeeding Your Premature Baby
Breastfeeding: Getting Started
Breathing Problems
Care of the Baby in the Delivery Room
Caring for Babies in the NICU
Common Conditions and Complications
Common Procedures
Congenital Heart Disease Index
Diabetes During Pregnancy: Risks to the Baby
Difficulty with Latching On or Sucking
Digestive Disorders
Fever in Children
Hearing Loss in Babies
Hearing Screening Tests for Newborns
Heart Disorders
High-Risk Newborn Blood Disorders
Infant Feeding Guide
Infant Play
Infant Sleep
Infection in Babies
Inguinal Hernia in Children
Keeping Your Baby Warm
Male Conditions
Megaureter in Children
Micropenis in Children
Neurological Disorders in the Newborn
Newborn Appearance
Newborn Babies: Getting Ready at Home
Newborn Complications
Newborn Crying
Newborn Health Assessment
Newborn Measurements
Newborn Multiples
Newborn Reflexes
Newborn Screening Tests
Newborn Senses
Newborn Sleep Patterns
Newborn Warning Signs
Normal Newborn Behaviors and Activities
Physical Exam of the Newborn
Preparing for Your New Baby
Preparing the Family
Skin Color Changes
Substance Exposure
Taking a Baby's Temperature
Taking Your Baby Home
The Growing Child: Newborn
The Respiratory System in Babies
Thrush (Oral Candida Infection) in Children
Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn
Umbilical Cord Care
Vision and Hearing
When to Call Your Child's Healthcare Provider

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.