A temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above is high for a child.
High temperatures are often caused by common illnesses like colds, flus or mild infections. They usually get better within 3 days.
It's important to keep a close eye on your child and talk to your GP if you think their temperature could be something more serious.
When to check your child's temperature
Check your child’s temperature if they:
- have flushed cheeks
- feel hotter than usual on their chest, forehead, back or stomach
- are sweaty
- are more irritable than usual
How to check your child's temperature
The best way to check your child's temperature is with a digital thermometer. Ear or strip thermometers may not be as accurate.
You can buy a digital thermometer at a pharmacy, supermarket or online. The thermometer will come with instructions.
Do not take your child's temperature immediately after a bath or when they're wrapped in warm clothing, as you will not get an accurate result.
Most digital thermometers are designed to be used in your child’s armpit.
- Lie your baby flat or sit an older child comfortably on your knee.
- Put the thermometer in their armpit.
- Gently hold their arm against their side to keep the thermometer in place. The instructions that come with the thermometer will let you know how long you need to hold it for. But many digital thermometers beep when they are ready.
- The display on the thermometer will tell you your child’s temperature.
Non-urgent advice: When to get medical help
Contact your GP or public health nurse (PHN) if your baby:
- is younger than 3 months old and has a temperature of more than 38 degrees Celsius
- is older than 3 months and has a temperature of 39 degrees Celsius or more
- has a temperature with other signs and symptoms
Trust your instincts. If you are worried about your child, always get medical help
If your child has a low temperature
A normal temperature for your child is around 36.5 to 37.5 degrees Celsius.
If your thermometer is reading a lower temperature for your child, most of the time it's nothing to worry about. It can be hard to get an accurate temperature reading on babies and small children.
But get urgent medical advice from your GP or PHN if your child has a low body temperature and any of the following symptoms:
- breathing problems
- shaking or trembling
Do not use a mercury thermometer
Never use a mercury thermometer. They can break, exposing your child to glass splinters and mercury which is highly poisonous.
If your child is exposed to mercury
Contact your nearest hospital emergency department that treats children or call 999 if your child comes into contact with mercury outside of these hours.