Can I let baby sleep with a fever?

Posso deixar bebê dormir com febre

A feverish baby is always especially worrisome and brings many doubts. What temperature is considered a fever? When and how to medicate? Take the baby or not to the doctor? Let baby sleep or not?

Because of this, mothers spend their day uncomfortable and, at night, awake, often not knowing for sure what to do when the thermometer shows that their babies are with axillary temperature above 37.8°C (100ºF), a minimum value that indicates fever.

However, before becoming desperate and waking up your baby to take the temperature or rush to the emergency room in the middle of the night, learn a little more about the fever and when to seek more attention.

What is a fever?

Different from what many think, a fever is not the disease, but rather a symptom, or a sign that the body is working against an agent causing an infection or inflammation, usually of viral or bacterial origin, and may be respiratory, urinary, tonsillitis, otitis or pneumonia.

In certain cases, the problem is simpler and the body itself takes care of the message, causing the temperature to return to normal, between 36.5 to 37°C (98.0 to 98.6ºF), often without needing medication, and the baby is fine soon thereafter.

Even if there is this possibility, it is important to observe your baby, including other symptoms that arise associated with fever, and his reactions to the problem. All of these factors will direct which procedures should be taken.


Fever or Febrile State

One of the first aspects to observe is whether the baby’s temperature rise really is fever or just a febrile state, that is, when the body is a little warmer compared to the established normal.

If, when measuring axillary temperature, the safest form recommended by doctors, the thermometer is between 37.1°C to 37.5°C (98.8 to 99.5ºF), is characterized as a febrile state, which can even be caused by, for example, excess clothing,  teething and even hot ambiences.

Before you medicate your baby or hurry off to the emergency room, try to take off some clothes and wait a while before measuring again. Another way to lower temperature is a simple warm bath, without the need to rub on alcohol, and never in cold water.

If the febrile condition persists or changes to higher fever, contact your pediatrician or take him to the emergency room for a doctor’s diagnosis, which will prescribe the optimal treatment and the correct dose of medication. Never medicate your baby without a doctor’s guidance.


When to go to the doctor

Many mothers, especially first-time mothers, at the first sign of fever in the baby, become desperate and rush to the emergency room. The truth is, that this is not always necessary and even brings more risks to the baby, who is susceptible to diseases.

To find out if there really is a need to take him to the doctor, consider the following situations:

– Infants under three months of age with a temperature above 37.8°C (100ºF);

– Temperature above 39°C (102ºF) in infants older than three months, accompanied by crying and irritability;

– Fever above 39.4°C (103ºF) in children up to three years;

– Fever for more than 24 hours in children up to two years;

– Fever for more than three days in children over two years;

– Abrupt high fever;

– Fever that oscillates;

– If your baby, even after being medicated, is still unwilling to play or eat, becomes more sleepy, vomits, has a headache, a tummy ache, ear ache or sore throat, has difficulty breathing, has red or purple spots on the body, changes in the frequency of urination or defecation and becomes irritated.


It’s normal to be sleepy.

As fever is synonymous to the body working harder to combat the invasive agent, body pain, malaise and tiredness can occur. Letting the baby rest is a good way to recharge. Don’t wake your baby to medicate against fever.

However, it is important to be aware of the warning signs. If the baby oversleeps during the day, sleeps more than normal, to the point of not being able to wake up or is more time sullen, without wanting to do the everyday things, seeking a doctor’s help is recommended.


Febrile convulsion

The febrile convulsion is something that scares and worries many parents. However, it occurs in a small portion of babies and children, being a total of five out of every 100 and is associated with genetic conditions and when there is very rapid variation in temperature.

In general, a seizure is benign and lasts a few minutes. If it happens, it is recommended to stay calm, turn the baby’s head aside, laying it on a soft surface. Monitor the duration and contact your pediatrician or go to the hospital to check the cause of the fever and start appropriate treatment.


Special care

Keep your baby well hydrated. If he is more than six months old, offer him plenty of water, and, if he is still being breastfed exclusively, breastfeeding will help the baby’s body fight the cause of fever.

The most recommended thermometer for assessing temperature is mercury, placed below the armpits. The most modern, ear or digital ones may not be as accurate, so talk to your pediatrician about how to use it properly.

Leaving the baby in lighter clothes is a good way to make body heat dissipate, in addition to making him more comfortable. Give preference to fabrics like cotton.

Bathing with cold water or putting alcohol in the water can aggravate the problem. When the body cools down very quickly, the brain understands that it needs to regulate the temperature, and the fever can come back even higher. Alcohol, on the other hand, can cause allergies and irritations to the baby.



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