Fever that goes back and forth: What it can be and what to do


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Fever is the body’s defence mechanism and in most cases it usually appears then it disappears in 24 hours or remain for more days. Fever that goes back and forth in a baby is one of the signals that the body produces to indicate that something is not right. This type of fever can bring a lot of confusion to parents, because when you think it has been resolved, the fever comes back again.

Although fever is one of the symptoms that generates the most anxiety to parents, especially if it affects a new born, when it goes back and forth, it usually a sign of less serious situations such as after the baby has undergone vaccination, when the teeth begin to grow or even when the baby wears excess clothes.

The baby is considered to be having fever when the temperature goes beyond 37.5ºC by armpit measurement or beyond 38.2ºC.

Whenever the baby has fever most of the time, it might be a symptom of cold or viral infections. Other most common causes of fever in a baby that go back and forth include:

1. Reaction after receiving vaccine

Fever is one of the most common symptoms after the baby receives a vaccine. It can begin within 12 hours of taking the vaccine and last up to 1 to 2 days. In some cases the fever may go and reappear after a few days.

What to do: The parents should consult a paediatrician who will prescribe anti-thermal drugs and analgesics if there is need. In addition, it is also recommended to take regular measurements of the baby’s temperature and be aware of the appearance of other symptoms such as difficulty in breathing and fast heartbeat. In such cases, the doctor should be contacted immediately. If the baby is less that 3 months old and the fever is above 38°C, it is advisable to seek medical attention immediately.

2. Growth of teeth

When the baby’s teeth begin to grow, it will lead to swelling of the gums and therefore low and transient fever may occur. During this stage it is common for the baby to place his hands on the mouth frequently and drool a lot. The baby may also refuse to eat.

What to do: It is advisable to check the baby’s mouth to note whether the fever is as a result of the teeth growing. One can soak a sterile compress in cold water then place it on the baby’s gums so as to relieve discomfort. The doctor can also prescribe antithermic or analgesics to combat the fever. If the fever persists for more than two days, the paediatrician should be consulted for further examinations.

3. Excess clothing

It is natural for parents to care for the baby so much that they might overdress the baby, even when it is not necessary. However, excess clothing can result in in increased body temperature, which will lead to increased fever that will appear to go back and forth depending on the number of clothes that the baby is wearing.

What to do: Remove excess clothing from the baby so that they may feel more comfortable and to reduce the body temperature.

When to go to the doctor

The baby’s fever should always be evaluated by the paediatrician who will diagnose the root cause. Here are situations that should raise alarm when noted by the baby’s parents:

  • Fever in infants under 3 months of age and temperature above 38ºC
  • Continuous crying
  • Refusal to eat and drink
  • Present vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Present spots on the body, especially red spots that appear after the onset of fever
  • Stiffness of the nape
  • Convulsion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive drowsiness and difficulty in waking up
  • If the child has any chronic or autoimmune disease
  • Fever that lasts more than two days in children under two years
  • Fever that lasts more than three days in children older than two years

It is important to measure the baby’s temperature correctly and take note of other signs and symptoms then inform the doctor accordingly.

Nevertheless, it is important to give the baby enough liquid so as to avoid dehydration that is caused by increased body temperature.


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