Caring for your child at home

Caring for your child at home

Most children with fever can be cared for at home. You should be given advice on how to care for your child and when to seek further help.

There are medicines (known as antipyretics) that are commonly used to reduce fever. Paracetamol and ibuprofen are antipyretics (check the label if you're not sure from the brand name which one it contains). These medicines can help to lower your child's temperature and make them feel more comfortable but they do not treat the cause of the fever.

You should not use paracetamol or ibuprofen simply to lower your child's temperature or to try to prevent a febrile convulsion (a fit, or seizure, caused by fever) because studies have shown that paracetamol and ibuprofen do not reduce the risk of convulsions. However, it is okay to give your child one of these medicines if they have a fever and they are distressed or unwell.

Paracetamol and ibuprofen should not be given at the same time. If you give your child one of these medicines and they are still distressed before the next dose of this medicine is due, you may want to consider using the other. Only use these medicines for as long as your child feels unwell or distressed, and ask your healthcare professional if you need more information. Always check the instructions on the medicine bottle or packet.

Your healthcare professional should advise you:

  • to offer your child regular drinks (if you are breastfeeding then breast milk is best)

  • to look for signs that your child may be dehydrated (dry mouth, no tears, sunken eyes, sunken fontanelle – the soft spot on a baby's head)

  • to encourage your child to drink more fluids if they are dehydrated, and seek further advice if you are worried

  • how to look for and identify a non-blanching rash (a rash that does not disappear with pressure) that could be a sign of meningitis

  • to check on your child during the night

  • to keep your child away from school or nursery while they have a fever, and notify them of your child's absence.

Fever is a natural and healthy response to infection, so do not try to reduce your child's fever by over or under dressing them, or by sponging them with water.

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