How to tell if a baby has fever without thermometer

Learn how to safely check for a baby's temperature if you don't have a thermometer (yet)
Last updated: July 10, 2019

When you bring home your bundle of joy for the very first time your priorities change in an instant. One of the biggest causes of parental anxiety with a newborn is not knowing what’s up with them when they cry or look distressed as they can’t simply tell you what the problem is. Here at Best For Mums, we’ve covered a fair few topics on the subject of baby health and in this blog we’re going to help parents detect a fever if they haven’t got a thermometer at hand to do it for them.

Not everyone has a household thermometer that works with babies – when you’re shopping for your baby while pregnant most people get the bouncers, carriers, slings, bottles etc and often forget the little things such as a baby thermometer because who wants to predict their baby is going to be ill? No one.

Digital Medical Thermometer For Adults and Babies
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Digital Medical Thermometer For Adults and Babies
  • ACCURATE AND CONSISTENT medical thermometer - clinically tested
  • NON-CONTACT Forehead and Ear Thermometer for body temperature measurements in Fahrenheit and Celsius
  • INTELLIGENT FEVER WARNING SYSTEM that leaves out all the guesswork. Display lights up in green, orange or red depending on the temperature measured
  • DUAL MODE makes this fever thermometer a must-have for the entire family, from babies to adults

How to check for a fever in a baby without a temperature

Medical disclaimer – Best For Mums are not qualified medical professionals and this guide is just a guide and should not be taken as actual medical advice. Please consult your GP or local baby unit if you are genuinely worried about your

Hot to touch

Babies with a genuine fever will not just look hot but they will be hot to touch as well. To check a babies temperature without using a thermometer then use the BACK of your hand and check to the forehead, back of the neck. Your palm does not have as many nerve endings as the back of the hand and can’t give you feedback as good as the back.

Be sure to make sure your hand is neutral temperature first.

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Hot appearance

A fever can cause babies to both warm up and/or feel the chill as their bodies try to fight off the infection. If your baby’s got a fever then they may appear visibly hot which can include red puffy skin and perhaps some sweating. Typically, babies don’t sweat much as parents should always be keeping them in a room with a constant temperature but with a fever, they may get hot against you and their wills. A baby with a hot appearance should be one of the first things parents would notice if they do indeed have a fever.

Fighting a fever can cause a hot appearance as it dilates the blood vessels giving their cheeks a reddish hue. Be careful to confuse red cheeks and a fever with other causes such as teething.

Shivering

Shivering is the body’s response to cold temperatures to try and warm themselves up but babies don’t tend to shiver as they have a different way to warm up. Shivering could be a sign of an underlying problem including a fever.

However, as is this case with most baby behaviours , shivering may mean nothing at all and merely a case of an immature nervous system – we’ve covered this sort of things in our article regarding baby lip quivers.

Irritable

A baby with a fever will be in a foul mood and very irritable. Nothing you can do will console them and they may just cry and cry. A baby with a fever will not JUST be irritable, they will have other symptoms as well. Do not act solely on the fact your baby is in a bad mood otherwise you’ll be driving yourself mad.

baby neck and forehead feels hotter than usual lethargy dehydration (is the urine very yellow, are they not pooing as often) ask them how they feel (depending on age, wouldn’t be babies but still) fits (serious)

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The below symptoms are serious and if you notice any to make sure to seek medical attention immediately.

Drowsiness/lethargy

If a fever has really taken hold of a baby and they’ve been passed the point of irritability then they may start to become drowsy and lethargic and you won’t need a thermometer to know something’s not up. They may start to sway, droop their necks and appear to be half asleep. This symptom can often be overlooked as your baby just being sleepy. However, if your baby is being drowsy/lethargic AND one of the other symptoms then it’s time to get a professional medical opinion

Breathing problems

A strong fever that’s not been dealt with swift can lead to your baby having breathing problems. They will appear completely out of breath and their stomach will looked ‘sucked in’. This may or may not actually be fever related, though, but it’s definitely something that needs to be looked at by a medical professional immediately with a thermometer being completely useless at this point, even if you had one.

Vomiting

Another symptom that your baby has a fever that you don’t need a thermometer to diagnose is vomiting. A baby needs food much more urgently than adults do so if they’re bringing their milk/food up it could be worrying. As a disclaimer though, babies vomiting up their milk is a normal occurrence especially if they’re bottle fed so don’t use this symptom alone to diagnose anything. Check most of the other symptoms of a fever first before jumping to conclusions.

Conclusion

Although there are a few methods of finding out if your baby has a fever without a thermometer we would still recommend just getting one anyway, as they’re relatively cheap. As with most potential medical issues with a baby it’s important to remain calm and not panic but at the same time if your baby exhibits some of the more serious symptoms then it’s time to get off the internet and seek actual medical attention.

Digital Medical Thermometer For Adults and Babies
493 Reviews
Digital Medical Thermometer For Adults and Babies
  • ACCURATE AND CONSISTENT medical thermometer - clinically tested
  • NON-CONTACT Forehead and Ear Thermometer for body temperature measurements in Fahrenheit and Celsius
  • INTELLIGENT FEVER WARNING SYSTEM that leaves out all the guesswork. Display lights up in green, orange or red depending on the temperature measured
  • DUAL MODE makes this fever thermometer a must-have for the entire family, from babies to adults

Other baby condition articles

We’ve covered a few other articles relating to conditions baby’s can experienc, check them out:

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