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Fever / High Temperature (aged 3 months and older)

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IMPORTANT: If your baby is under 3 months old with a fever/high temperature then you should follow this information instead

Fever is very common in children. It suggests that your child might have an infection. If your child has an infection their fever should settle within 3-4 days.

Your child has a fever if their temperature is over 38°C. It's really important that you check your child's temperature accurately.  Click here to see how to check your child’s temperature.

  • Both viral and bacterial infections can give your child a fever.
  • Viral infections are more common than bacterial infections. Runny nose, cough, wheeze, sore throat, red eyes and diarrhoea are signs your child might have a viral infection. Viral infections spread easily. If other people your child lives with have the same illness it is more likely to be a viral infection
  • Viral infections tend to get better on their own. Antibiotics treat bacterial infections. Antibiotics do not help if your child has a viral infection.  Antibiotics may actually cause side effects such as rash and diarrhoea and can increase the risk of them developing  antibiotic resistance.
  • Fever is common in babies up to 48 hours after they have had their vaccinations. Follow the advice given by your community nurses when your child was given their vaccines.
When should I get help?

Use the traffic light table to help you know what to do if your child is unwell.




What should I do?
  • Give your child plenty of fluids (lots to drink). If your child is not eating make sure they are taking some milk or sugary fluids.
  • Avoid tepid sponging your child or giving them a cool bath. It doesn’t actually bring your child’s temperature down and may cause your child to shiver
  • Dress them in loose clothing . Avoid over-wrapping or under-dressing them
  • If your child is distressed with the fever you can give paracetamol (calpol) and/or ibuprofen. Give one medicine at a time. If your child is no better 2-3 hours later you can try using the other medicine.  Remember that fever is a normal response that may help the body to fight infection. Paracetamol/ibuprofen will not get rid of it entirely
  • Follow the instructions on the medicine for how much to give and how often. Both are very safe when used in the right way. If your child has too much medicine or takes it too often it can be harmful.
  • If you think your child has taken too much medicine phone NHS 111
  • Ask your local pharmacist if you want more advice about medicines for your child

The Glass Test

Do the ‘glass test’ if your child has a rash. Press a clear drinking glass firmly against the rash. If you can see the spots through the glass and they do not go away as you press the glass onto the skin then they have a ‘non-blanching rash’.

If you see this type of rash you need help now. Get medical advice straight away.

How long will my child's symptoms last?
  • Fever caused by a viral infection tends to get better within 2 to 3 days.
  • If your child’s fever lasts for more than 5 days, get them seen by your GP.
  • The chart below shows how long fever lasts in a child with viral infections.  The faces represent 10 children who have seen their GP with a viral infection. Green faces are those children whose fever has recovered within that time period.

The diagrams are taken from



Where should I get help?
Self Care

For wear and tear, minor trips and everything in between.


You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when needed. Use the medicines recommended by your pharmacist or doctor. Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can get better from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly. It is important to get further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

More information on common childhood illnesses.

Local Pharmacist

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare. They are the first port of call for minor ailments and can provide advice and medication (if needed) for a wide range of long term conditions and common ailments including coughs and colds.

Pharmacy First is a free service. You do not need an appointment and many pharmacies have a private consultation area.

Your pharmacist will let you know if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  1. Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP.
  2. Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should get further medical advice immediately.
  3. Help your child to understand - watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy.
Health Visitor

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who promote healthy lifestyle and prevent illness through the Universal Health Visiting Pathway. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Your health visitor may be able to refer you on to other health professionals, for example if there are hearing or vision concerns.

Contact them by phoning your local health visiting team.

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information watch the video: What does a health visitor do?

GP (General Practitioner)
GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  1. Doctors/GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to the Emergency Department.
  2. For minor injuries such as cuts that need stitches, broken bones, sprains and minor burns in children aged 5 or over, go to one of our Minor Injury Units (MIU). 
NHS 24
If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call NHS 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Sound advice

Use NHS 24 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

Emergency Department
Emergency departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped. If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call NHS 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to the Emergency Department and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to the Emergency Department or riding in an ambulance

Content adapted with permission from the resource produced by the Healthier Together initiative


Editorial Information

Last reviewed: 22 September 2022

Next review: 22 September 2025

Reviewer Name(s): Dr Morag Wilson; Dr Geetika Kumar