This is a subject that is very emotive to me and it was only a matter of time before I wrote a blog entry about it.
Back in May when Alice was a mere 3 weeks old, she contracted a fever. My normally happy and placid baby turned into a screaming monster; not even milk would satiate her. We’d checked all the usual and nothing was amiss, so we felt her head and she felt slightly warm, but not overly. We then moved on to her hands and feet (both cold) and checked her body. Nothing. So as her feet were cold, we wrapped her in a blanket and did everything we could to calm her down. But I knew in my heart that something was seriously wrong.
Now I am in a very fortunate position to have a Mum who is a nurse. And not just any old nurse, a neonatal sister, so I am doubly lucky. After 2 hours of continual wailing, I gave her a call:
Mum: “So is she hot?”
Me: “No, her hands and feet are ice cold.”
Mum: “Have you taken her temperature?”
No, I hadn’t! It hadn’t even occurred to me actually as I’d checked her with my hand and she was fine. But she wasn’t fine. The small, old mercury thermometer went up and up and up, until it reached 38 degrees Celsius!
At the age she was, my Mum told me to stop messing around and get her to hospital and expect to be staying there.
So that was it, the next twenty minutes were spent in a bit of a frenzy; packing bags for Alice, packing bags for me, finding phone charges, packing breast pumps and sterile bottles in case I needed to express and finally strapping my poor hysterical baby into her car seat and driving as fast as the speed limits would let me to the hospital.
When I got there, the Booking-In Nurse told me off for bringing such a young baby to hospital, “you shouldn’t have brought her, there are seriously sick people here, she could catch something that will make her really ill”. Well, that was it! No-one questions my parenting skills!!! Needless to say, we got admitted immediately and straight into a cubical.
Doctors came and went. Discussions were had in hushed tones, samples were taken and still no decision. In the end, her temperature was confirmed and she was admitted. The events that followed were both distressing and the stuff of nightmares. Alice’s temperature peaked at 40 degrees over the next few days, despite being hooked up to a heart monitor, breathing monitor and having three different types of antibiotics pumped into her system. In the end it was determined that she had an enterovirus.
But the most important learning I have made from this whole experience is this: if I hadn’t have taken her temperature, Alice would not have made it through the night and I would have lost my beautiful girl!
This is why it is so important to really know and understand the signs of fever in small children, especially those who aren’t able to articulate their concerns.
Here is my “Baby Risk Assessment” (I have Health & Safety training, so everything is done through risk assessments, so I apologise in advance). It is important to state that I am not a medical professional, but this is also a run down of the sorts of questions you will be asked by a health practitioner when assessing the severity of your child’s illness:
1. Have you changed their nappy, tried to get them to sleep and tried to make them comfortable? NO – try it out and if no change move down
YES – move down
2A. Have you fed them? NO – try it out and if no change move down
YES – move down
2B. Did they eat all their milk / food? YES – If they have eaten over 50% of their normal feeds for the last 24 hours, then this is deemed still acceptable, so continue to monitor them. If they have eaten less than 50% or a vomiting then this is considered to be a matter for concern, so Ring your doctor or health visitor.
NO – move down
3. Have you taken their temperature? NO – take temperature then move down
YES – move down
4A. If your baby is 3 months or less, is the temperature 38 degrees Celsius or above? NO – monitor temperature over the next few hours. If no change, move down.
YES or Baby is over 3 months – move down
4B. If your baby is between 3-6 months, is the temperature 39 degrees Celsius or above? No – consider giving paracetamol and monitor their temperature for the next few hours. If no change, move down.
YES – move down
Try and lower your baby’s temperature yourself. Take off clothes, lie them on a blanket on the floor, put a fan on, open windows, give them cool feeds or take them outside. Monitor their temperature for an hour.
5. Has the baby’s temperature dropped? YES – continue to monitor the temperature for another hour. If it continues to drop and falls below the areas on concern, contact your doctor or health visitor during normal working hours for a check up.
NO – take them to the hospital!
Things to also be wary of that are considered to be a sign of illness are:
- Runny, discoloured, cottage cheese-like or blood in their stools
- Drawing their knees continuously up to their stomach (this could be a sign of stomach ache)
- Thrashing about
- Continuous wailing or very loud crying
- Panting (sign that they are hot)
Also, the following are examples of very useful websites that can be of help to you as well:
NHS Website – Treating a High Temperature:
Baby Centre – Baby & Child Fevers
And finally, here is the link to our new electric ear thermometer. These are the exact brand the nurses were using in the hospital when we were in and we were advise to get one as they are more accurate and quicker to read than the old mercury or head strip ones:
So in conclusion, I hope the above will provide other Mums out there with the tools to help determine the severity of their child’s illnesses. If just one other person reads and uses this information, then I will consider this to be a huge victory and that something good can come from something so bad. Good luck and remember:
Fevers can kill, never ignore them!