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Ask the Doctor: ‘What should I do when my 10-month-old’s temperature spikes?’

Ask the Doctor: ‘What should I do when my 10-month-old’s temperature spikes?’


by Sarah Gill
25th Jun 2024

All your burning health questions answered by the professionals.

“I have a small child (10 months) who has had a temperature a few times. I have brought him to the hospital as I am unsure of what to do and as a single mum with no family or support close by, I often panic. What should I be doing when I notice him spiking a temperature? What should I try first, and when is the point I should bring him to the doctor or emergency room? I don’t want to waste time or resources, but I also don’t want to jeopardise my son’s health.”

Answer from Fiona Lehane, Paediatric Manager & Nurse Educator at Beacon Hospital

It can be very worrying for parents when their child becomes unwell. Temperatures in children, especially when they are small, are very common. Temperatures can occur for a number of reasons including viral or bacterial illnesses, but can also occur for less serious reasons for example teething and vaccinations. Small children can be more likely to develop temperatures than older children and adults. Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact reason that a child is having a temperature, however, it is very important for parents to manage the temperatures appropriately.

It is best to use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature, these can be purchased from any pharmacy. A normal temperature is classified as between 36 and 36.8 degrees Celsius. A high temperature can be classified as anything above 38 degrees Celsius. Signs of a high temperature can include a red or flushed face, sweating or feeling clammy or feeling hot to touch their head, belly or back. Hands and feet can sometimes feel cold when a child has a temperature.

If your child has a temperature you can try to cool the environment, make sure they are dressed in very light clothing and you can use lukewarm water on a sponge to help cool them down. Remove any heavy blankets. It is important for your child to remain hydrated during illness so encourage them to drink plenty of fluids and keep an eye that they are having wet nappies or passing urine.

Offer your child food and fluids from a variety of food groups. Ice-pops can be useful to maintain your child’s hydration and sugar levels if they are not taking their normal diet.

Temperatures can be well managed with paracetamol and ibuprofen, these are available over the counter in any pharmacy. Both of these medicines can be bought as a liquid suspension or as a suppository. Buy a syringe from your pharmacy to draw up the exact dose. You can start by giving your child one of these medicines and if it doesn’t bring down the temperature after 30 minutes then give the other. Read the information carefully around timing of these medications. It is a good idea to write down the time you gave each medication so you know when the next dose is due. A good way to manage temperatures is to alter the medications every 4 hours. If children are being under-dosed you may not see your child’s temperature go down to normal. The HSE have some excellent guidelines on their website for dosing based on your child’s weight.

You should not try to treat a temperature at home if your child is under 3 months of age, you should seek immediate medical advice from your GP or local A&E/urgent care centre. If your child is smiling, in good form, taking fluids and having normal interaction, you can manage the temperature at home. Always seek medical advice if you are worried about your child, if their nappies aren’t very wet, if they are lethargic and difficult to wake up or stay awake, if your child has a rash or is having difficulty breathing, if your child has a temperature that has not come down after you have given paracetamol and ibuprofen or if your child has a temperature for more than 3 days.

Have a question for the professionals you’d like answered? Get in touch with [email protected] with the subject headline ‘Ask The Doctor’.