What is a high temperature in children?

A high temperature in children, whether at night or during the day is 38°C or above. A normal body temperature in babies and children is around 36.4°C but this can vary slightly.

If you find your child does have a fever (when body temperature rises above normal), they may also:

  • Feel hot when you touch their back or chest
  • Look or feel unwell
  • Have flushed, sweaty or clammy skin

How and when should you check on your child?

A temperature in children is their bodies response to fighting off infection. Many things can cause a high temperature, from common childhood illnesses like colds and tonsillitis, to vaccinations. Try to check on your child regularly during the night. Remember, you can always call your doctor during the day if you have any questions about your little one’s symptoms and you can call NHS 111 for medical advice 24 hours a day.

How can you help keep your child comfortable?

It’s tempting to wrap your child in warm clothes or put extra blankets on them when they’re ill, but dressing them in light clothing is better for them, particularly if they have a high temperature.

You can open the window to keep the room airy, but not draughty. A warm room may make them uncomfortable. If they’re old enough to talk and don’t want to stay in a bed, then make them comfortable on a sofa where they can be with the family to relax and go to bed later (never let a young child sleep on the sofa).

How can you keep your child well hydrated?

  • Give your child plenty of fluids and keep an eye on them for signs of dehydration.
  • For the first day let them eat if they’re hungry, but don’t worry if they don’t eat. After that, start trying to tempt them with bits of food and encouraging them to have nutritious drinks like milk.
  • Offer your child food with a high water content, such as cooled soups, jellies or fruit, like melon.
  • If they find it hard to drink or you’re struggling to get your child to drink, try small sips of liquid at first, gradually offering more as they are able. You can also try using a spoon to give them fluid and to make it easier for them to swallow.

Do you know the signs of dehydration in children?

Your child may be dehydrated if they:

  • Complain of feeling thirsty, have a dry mouth, lips and eyes
  • Have dark yellow and strong-smelling pee
  • Appear to be dizzy, lightheaded, or tired
  • Are peeing little, and fewer than 4 times a day for toddlers and older children
  • Have sunken eyes, no tears when crying or nappies are not very wet, for babies

Help is at hand

If you are worried or your child is showing worrying signs of a fever at night, do not hesitate to contact your doctor. If your child has a fever and they are distressed, you can always try giving them medicine, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to help reduce their fever. Nurofen for Children (3 months to 9 years, Orange) contains ibuprofen and provides up to 8 hours fever relief.

Take your little one to a doctor if they:*

  • Are under 3 months old with a temperature of 38C or higher
  • Are 3 to 6 months old with a temperature of 39C or higher
  • Have had a high temperature for 5 days or more
  • Are refusing to eat, or is not their usual self and you're worried
  • Have other signs of illness such as a rash
  • Have a high temperature that does not come down with medicine (paracetamol or ibuprofen)
  • Are dehydrated (dry nappies, sunken eyes and no tears when crying)

In the case of medical emergency, call 999 if your child:

  • Has a stiff neck or light is hurting their eyes
  • Are refusing to drink or eat much and are not acting like their usual selves
  • Has a fit (does not stop shaking)
  • Have unusually cold hands and feet or blue, pale blotchy skin or tongue
  • Their crying is unusual, for example, it’s high pitched or weak
  • Is having trouble breathing
  • Has developed a rash that when pressed with a glass, does not fade

It can be distressing looking after a sick little one but remember that it is common for young children to have high temperatures from time to time and they will usually be well again in 3 to 4 days. In the meantime, make sure you also get plenty of rest and share the caring duties with a partner or adult family member, if possible.


*This is not a complete list. Always seek medical advice if you are concerned about your child’s symptoms. Speak to your doctor, pharmacist or call 111.

All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health matters for further information or medical advice, please speak to your doctor or pharmacist.