Newborn Fever

Get Well Soon!

Get Well Soon!

When I say “Newborn Fever”, I’m not talking about nervous excitement about having a baby, I mean an elevated temperature in a baby that is less than three months old. Is there anything more nerve racking?

In our household, we try and let a fever take its course. It’s doing something important, after all: helping the body fight off infection. Sometimes we can’t help but give into “feverphobia”, and bring it down with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but only if the child is uncomfortable. As long as she is eating, drinking, peeing and not acting lethargic, we let the illness run its course.

The course of action is not the same for a baby under three months old. It’s hard to find a source on the internet that doesn’t insist you take her to the ER the minute her temperature goes above 100.4F. It turns out that if the fever is caused by a bacteria, it’s very dangerous. The only way to really be sure that it isn’t caused by a viral infection instead is through tests.

We never bothered to buy a rectal thermometer because Franci never got sick. We’ve liked our ear thermometer and use it on the whole family. Although they are not very accurate for infants, I didn’t worry about it too much. It gave us a ballpark range that seemed good enough. I wish I had known just how inaccurate it is!

After being intimidated by all the information online about fevers in infants, we made a late-night trip to the store for a multi-use digital thermometer. I had no idea we were looking at a full two degrees of difference between the ear and the rectal temperature! I wish I hadn’t been so quick to avoid taking a baby’s temperature rectally. When it came down to it, she sure didn’t seem to mind and I wasn’t as clumsy as I thought I’d be.

Although her temperature was above the dreaded 100.4F cutoff, we were confident that Allison’s fever wasn’t bacterial (Franci and I had the same fever), and our pediatrician supported our decision to wait until morning instead of rushing to the ER. If she had stopped nursing, peeing or began acting lethargic, we would have gone instantly. Since she was behaving so normally I wouldn’t have known anything was wrong had we not decided to take her temperature the right way.

What I learned was that just because I would balk at having my own temperature taken rectally doesn’t mean a newborn cares. And even if they do, knowing that the reading is accurate in your newborn is worth it.


  1. What a relief to have Allison feeling better! We still have mercury thermometers at our house, maybe it is time to upgrade. Or not. We wouldn’t use them with children, but I’ve always thought they were quite accurate. Anyhow, I’m glad you found a multi-use digital thermometer for the girls; let’s hope you don’t have to use it again for along time!

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