When should I give my baby pain relief?

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Question: Over the weekend my four-month-old had a lasting high temperature. My problem is knowing when to administer pain relief, and if I am doing it for the right reason - eg, so she will sleep better at night.

Answer: 

Many new parents have concerns about when they should administer pain relief to young babies. When it comes to high temperatures, the main objective of pain relief is to help make a baby comfortable until their fever naturally subsides.

According to advice from The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne, if your baby is their normal happy self and does not appear to be bothered by their fever then there is no real need to administer pain relief. However a fever will make many babies restless and unsettled and pain relief can help ease their distress until the fever passes.

Your baby is considered to have a fever when their body temperature rises above 38°C. A fever is usually a sign of an infection in the body and is often caused by a virus and sometimes bacteria, but a high temperature does not necessarily mean your child has a serious illness.

Fevers are common in babies and children and are in fact a sign their body's immune system is working to fight off the infection. However it is recommended to see a doctor when a baby under six months has a lasting temperature. Any baby under three-months-old with a fever should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible.

If your baby has a fever they may be hot to touch, have sweaty or clammy skin, be shivering or have a flushed face.

If your baby's fever is above 38.5°C, they are restless or have other symptoms of illness, such as a sore throat, then it is appropriate to give pain relief.

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Be sure to administer pain relief in accordance with dosage directions on the appropriate product for your baby's age and weight. Pain relief can be given every four hours with no more than four doses in each 24 hour period. Do not give pain relief for more than two days without seeking medical advice.

In addition to administering pain relief, babies and children with fever should also be given fluids, dressed in loose cool clothing and placed in a lukewarm (not cold) bath.

It is recommended to seek medical attention for your baby's fever if they are under six months old, have a fever over 40°C, are very sick or lethargic, have a stiff neck, headache, rash, vomiting or diarrhoea. They should also be taken to a doctor if their fever has not subsided after two days, they have stomach pains or a loss of appetite, an earache, difficulty breathing or are crying inconsolably.

Parents are advised to never give babies or children aspirin, as it can lead to the potentially fatal Reye's syndrome.