Fevers in children

A high fever does not necessarily mean that your child has a serious illness. Fever is a sign of infection which is usually caused by a virus, but occasionally a bacterium. Bacterial infections are usually treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics do not kill viruses. Fever is thought to be a normal reaction by the body as it fights the infection.

Management of fever

Treat fever if you feel that it is making your child uncomfortable and irritable. You can do this by doing the following:

  1. Dress your child in light clothing. Do not overwrap.
  2. Give your child small drinks of clear fluid frequently. Do not worry if your child refuses to eat.
  3. Keep your child cool, but cool them gently. Do not fan.
  4. Give a children’s paracetamol medicine e.g. Calpol at the dose stated on the bottle or you can give Ibuprofen syrup (not if asthmatic) (NICE).
  5. Repeat the dose 4 hourly until the temperature is normal and then 6 hourly for a further 24 hours.

Do not give children aspirin.
Do not exceed stated dose.
Keep medicines safe from children.

When to see your doctor

If you are concerned about any of the following:

  1. Child looking sicker than previously, especially if pale when hot.
  2. Complaints of stiff neck, light hurting eyes or a severe headache.
  3. Unusual rash (especially if like a bruise).
  4. Difficulty breathing.
  5. Drinking less that ½ of normal intake in 24 hours or less than 4 wet nappies in 24 hours.
  6. Vomiting.
  7. Drowsiness.
  8. No improvement after 48 hours.
  9. Excessive pain.

If you are unsure of anything, please do not hesitate to telephone us. A nurse is always available to give advice and will be happy to help.

Contact us

Telephone: 0117 414 5100

© North Bristol NHS Trust. This edition published July 2022. Review due July 2025. NBT002254.

Fevers in children