Working out the cause of the fever

Working out the cause of the fever

If you are talking to a healthcare professional on the telephone, they should ask you questions about your child's health and symptoms. This will help them to decide if your child is best cared for at home or if they need to see a healthcare professional face to face. Very occasionally, an ambulance may be called if it is an emergency. This may not mean that your child has a serious illness, but does mean that they need to be seen quickly in case any treatment is needed.

If you see a healthcare professional face to face, they should examine your child to try to find what is causing the fever and to rule out serious illness and infection.

Your healthcare professional should measure and record your child's:

  • temperature

  • pulse (heart rate)

  • breathing (respiratory rate).

They should also check for signs of dehydration, and may measure your child's blood pressure.

Your healthcare professional may also ask for a urine sample because a urinary tract infection is a common cause of fever in children.

Sometimes your healthcare professional will not find a reason for your child's fever, even after a full examination. They should not prescribe oral antibiotics (to take by mouth) if the cause of the fever is not known.

Based on the examination, your healthcare professional will decide how best to care for your child. Most children can be cared for at home (see caring for your child at home). Sometimes your healthcare professional may decide that your child needs a follow-up appointment, or they may need to make sure that you can phone or see a healthcare professional at any time of the day or night if you need to. They should also give you advice (which may include some written information) on symptoms to look out for and how to get further help.

A small proportion of children will need further assessment or tests in hospital (see taking your child to hospital).

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