There Are New Fever Guidelines for Infants: Here’s What Parents Should Know

Any fever can be scary in young babies, but here's what you need to know.


Photo by: JGI/Jamie Grill

JGI/Jamie Grill

By: Amanda Mushro

It can be really scary if your newborn has a fever. It could be a sign of a serious bacterial infection that needs immediate care. For some babies with a fever, a trip to the emergency room could mean a few hours of observation. However, for others, doctors may recommend a battery of tests and a full workup that may include a lumbar puncture or a few days of hospitalization. The reason for the difference in care? Until now, there wasn’t a set protocol for babies between the age of 8-60 days who spike a fever. However, there’s good news for these newborns and their parents.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a new set of guidelines in The Journal of Pediatrics for recommended care for fevers in newborns. With the new standardized guidelines, doctors can follow a set of procedures based on the baby’s age. If a baby has a body temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, doctors will follow different protocols if the infant is 8-21 days, 22-28 days, or 29-60 days old.

"Most of these infants never get a fever, but when one does it can be pretty scary," said Dr. Sean O’Leary, a co-author of the guidelines and vice-chair of the Committee on Infectious Diseases for the American Academy of Pediatrics, to Today. "What is good about these guidelines from the perspective of a parent is they are based on all the science accumulated over the decades on how to manage an infant with a fever."

The authors of the study say they hope these findings will help doctors and their patients identify serious illnesses and avoid painful and costly testing if it’s not needed.

"The problem is these babies can’t tell us much and their immune systems are not as strong as they will be when they get a little older," Dr. Eric Biondi told Today. “A little fever could be the sign of a bad bacterial infection, such as bacteria in the blood, meningitis or a urinary tract infection. For a long time, because of that, we’ve probably been overdiagnosing, over-treating, over lumbar puncturing and over hospitalizing."

So what do parents need to know? The first step is to call your pediatrician if your baby has a fever — anything over 100.4. Even if your baby doesn’t look sick and is acting normal, call your pediatrician

While forehead and underarm thermometers may be handy and easy to use, your pediatrician will need a rectal temperature because it’s the most accurate. This visit to your baby’s doctor can rule out anything serious and hopefully avoid a trip to the ER. With cold and flu season right around the corner, hopefully these guidelines will help ease parents' minds and help babies avoid a trip to the hospital if it isn’t necessary.

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