What is a healthy temperature range for children and how can you tell if you have a fever?

It's important to check, especially if you - or your children - feel under the weather.
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  • A fever or high body temperature can be a key sign of illness, particularly in children.

    Particularly of concern during the current coronavirus pandemic, a too high body temperature can indicate that you, or your little ones, have a virus or infection brewing.

    For babies and young children, a fever can be particularly serious.

    At the moment, as per government advice relating to the coronavirus, you should self-isolate for 14 days if you or anyone in your household has show symptoms of the virus – which include a high fever, and a persistent cough.

    Healthy temperature range: what is the temperature for a fever?

    Normal body temperature is 37°C, or 98.6F.

    However, some studies have suggested that this can vary within a small range, between 36.1°C, or 97°F, to 37.2°C, which is 99°F.

    A high temperature is generally considered to be 38°C and over, according to the NHS.

    Temperature check: how do I check my temperature?

    If you are taking your temperature, or taking your child’s temperature, first make sure that you are they aren’t doing anything that could significantly change their reading.

    First make sure you haven’t just been very active, such as exercising, and of course, make sure you haven’t just been in a warm room, wrapped up in plenty of blankets, wearing lots of clothes, or cuddling a hot water bottle.

    It’s quick and easy to take someone’s temperature using a thermometer. First make sure the thermometer is clean and has been sanitised between uses.

    Simply put the thermometer in the mouth of the person you want to check, and wait a few moments before taking a reading. However, for under 5s you can check their temperature by placing it in their armpit, the NHS advises.

    temperature check

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    You can normally buy a thermometer from your local pharmacy. The NHS advises that digital thermometers are generally the easiest and safest – ear thermometers can be used but are normally expensive, and glass ones are no longer sold.

    How to check temperature without thermometer

    If you don’t have access to a thermometer, or can’t get one, you can use the back of your hand to see if your child is hot to the touch. If they have other symptoms too, they may well have a fever.

    Can a smartphone be used as a thermometer?

    There are a range of smartphone apps that state that they can take your temperature. iThermonitor is available to download as an app, and can reportedly capture a child’s high temperature in real time.

    There are other temperature apps which claim to do similar things, but they don’t appear to be anywhere near as accurate as the real thing, and haven’t been verified or even commented on by the NHS or any medical professional yet.

    As such, it’s probably the safest bet to take these with a pinch of salt and use an actual thermometer, or consult your doctor if you believe you or a loved one has a fever.

    How can I bring down a fever?

    If you do not have any underlying health conditions or are not considered to be in a vulnerable group of people, such as children, it is generally considered to be safe to let a fever improve of its own accord, which should take a few days.

    To stay comfortable, the NHS Inform service advises not overdressing – wearing comfortable clothes but ones that won’t make you feel too hot.

    It’s also key to keep drinking fluids, ideally, mostly water, to avoid dehydration. Paracetamol is also thought to help reduce a fever, unless you have been told not to take it by a medical professional.

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