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Caring for a child with fever at home

Patient information A-Z

Septicaemia Glass Test

  • A fever with spots/rash that does not fade under pressure is a medical emergency.
  • Meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning).
  • One sign of septicaemia is a rash that does not fade under pressure.
  • Spots / rash may fade at first, keep checking.
Septicaemia Glass Test
  • If someone is ill and getting worse do not wait for a rash, it can appear late or not at all.
  • The spots or rash are more difficult to see on darker skin, check paler areas.

Signs of severe infection

Seek medical advice IMMEDIATELY if you feel your child is unwell and has some of the signs below or the glass test is positive

Babies and Toddlers

  • Fever, cold hands and feet
  • Saying no to food and vomiting
  • Fretful, dislike of being handled
  • Drowsy, floppy, not responsive
  • Rapid breathing or grunting
  • Pale, blotchy skin.
  • Spots/ rash (see Glass Test)
  • Unusual cry, moaning
  • Bulging soft spot on head
  • Stiff neck
  • Does not like bright lights
  • Convulsions/ seizures

Children and Young Adults

  • Fever, cold hands and feet
  • Vomiting
  • Very sleepy, difficult to wake
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Pale, blotchy skin.
  • Spots/ rash (see Glass Test)
  • Severe or worsening headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Does not like bright lights
  • Convulsions/ seizures

Fever (high temperature) in children

Fever means having a body temperature above normal 38°C. As well as having a high temperature, children with a fever can:

  • feel generally unwell
  • feel miserable
  • feel tired
  • look flushed
  • be sweaty
  • experience episodes of shivering

Most fevers in children are caused by viruses which cause an infection. They do not need to be treated with antibiotics. Your doctor will only prescribe antibiotics if they have good evidence of a bacterial infection.

Signs of dehydration

Children with fever may get dehydrated because they are not drinking enough fluids. Signs of dehydration to look out for include:

  • Dry mouth, tongue or lips
  • Fewer or no tears when crying
  • Being irritable, tired or weak
  • Drier nappies or dark coloured urine.

Caring for your child at home

How to treat a fever

  • Fever is one the body’s ways of fighting infection. There is no proof that fever in itself worsens or makes an illness last for longer. It should only be treated if your child is miserable and unwell.
  • Paracetamol and ibuprofen can help to lower your child’s temperature.
  • They do not treat the cause of the fever.
  • These medicines should not be given at the same time, but if you give your child one medicine and it does not help, you may want to consider using the other.
  • You should always check the instructions on the bottle or packet.
  • Do NOT give more than the dose and frequency stated on the bottle. If you need more information ask your local pharmacist.
  • Give your child plenty of cool drinks and ice lollies.
  • Do not tepid sponge your child or bathe them in cold water
  • DO NOT give aspirin to anyone under the age of 16

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151