Knowing your baby’s temperature provides key insights into their comfort and wellbeing. Follow this advice to keep you baby in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ – not too hot, not too cold, just right.
As parents we had a lot of questions about our babies temperature, such as:
– What is my babies temperature?
– What baby temperature is too high?
– How long is too long to have a high temperature?
– What do we do when our baby temperature is high?
– Can baby temperature be too low?
So we decided to write this article to help parents understand what is safe and what isn’t.
What temperature should I keep an eye on?
When we are talking babies temperature it is important to differentiate between core temperature, skin temperature and room temperature.
Your baby’s core temperature should not fluctuate too much, generally speaking it is independent of the outside conditions and can be better understood are your baby’s running temperature. Core temperature is predominantly affected by how hard/little their body is working. Their core temperature could be high because they are fighting infection, exercising or extreme heat waves.
It is important to keep an eye on your infants core temperature as it is indicative of their comfort and wellbeing.
Your baby’s skin temperature fluctuates much more, this is because it is affected by the outside conditions. However high skin temperature does not necessarily affect your baby’s core temperature. If their body can counteract the external heat by mechanisms such as sweating, breathing and restricting exercise.
It is important to keep an eye on your infants skin temperature because it can have an impact on core temperature.
Room temperature is whatever the outside environment is. This is largely irrelevant and most experts when talking about your baby’s temperature disregard room temperature. This is because it doesn’t matter how hot or cold the room is, the core temperature of your baby and their comfort is more dependent on how they are dressed. If it is cold, but they are well dressed, it really doesn’t matter. If it is cool, but they are not well dressed that could significantly affect their skin and core temperature.
Most experts disregard room temperature and just look at skin and core temperature.
What temperature should your baby be?
Your baby’s core temperature should be within +/- 1 degree of their normal temperature. What does that mean? Well, your baby has a high temperature if their current temperature is more than 1 degree higher than your babies average temperature. And you baby has a low temperature if it is more than 1 degrees lower than your baby’s average temperature.
This is different for every baby; some babies operate at higher temperatures and some at lower temperatures but the average temperature for babies is 36.4 degrees. This means on average your babies core temperature should be between 35.3 and 37.5 degrees. However, this can vary considerably and so the best way to determine what is safe for your baby is to use a continuous temperature measurement device and obtain an average of your baby’s temperature.
Most people will typically classify a high temperature as over 38.0 degrees, this is because they assume the average temperature is no higher then 37.0 degrees. However, it is more accurate to look at +/- 1 degree of their normal temperature because some babies never reach 38 degrees and for others it is part of their normal temperature range.
Is a Baby’s Temperature similar to an Adults?
Yes, they can be similar although sometimes infants can get more extreme temperatures then adults.
However as discussed above the actual temperature is inconsequential, what is consequential is the deviations from the normal. We don’t really care if your baby’s temperature is 37.5 degrees, we care more about is 37.5 degrees outside of your baby’s range of normal temperature i.e. outside of +/- 1 degree of their average temperature.
When do I need to speak to a Clinician?
This depends on your babies age and how healthy your baby is. For ‘normal’ healthy babies it is recommended to track your baby’s temperature continuously and measure how long they have a temperature for.
- 0-3 Months it is recommended to contact your midwife, GP or hospital any time your baby has a high temperature.
- 3-12 Months it is recommended to contact your midwife, GP or hospital within the same day.
- Over 12 months it is recommended to contact your midwife, GP or hospital if it lasts more than 4 da
What to do when your baby’s temperature is too high?
- Contact clinician as per above
- Dress them in light, cool clothing
- Put them in a cool room
- Give them a lukewarm bath or flannel
- Keep up their fluids
- Consult with a clinician regarding medication
What can cause a baby’s temperature to go too high?
There are several potential issues which could cause a high temperature and discomfort for your child
- Skin temperature is too hot.
- Infections such as gastro, cold and ear infections
- Allergic reactions
Things such as growing, sleeping, breastfeeding and teething do not generally cause a high temperature as they are part of the normal growth pattern. High temperatures are cause by abnormalities like infections which your baby’s body is fighting or environmental high temperatures.
You can read more about that here
Why does a baby’s temperature fluctuate?
Baby’s temperatures fluctuate regularly as do adults. This is part of the body’s normal rhythm and is often linked to the circadian rhythm whilst sleeping.
What do we mean by this? As your baby displays signs of tiredness and wanting to go to bed (or is due to go to bed) their core temperature increases. This is to help the body settle and ease into sleep. However, when they are (finally) asleep, due to inactivity the body’s core temperature cools. When it gets too cold the body ‘wakes’ itself up and generates heat with movement and muscle activity. This increases their core temperature and (hopefully) they transition back into deep sleep.
This is why babies and insomniacs wake in the night, most of us have learned to sleep through these ‘wake ups’ and we go into light sleep until we warm up. However, babies and some people haven’t ‘learnt’ this skill and so often completely wake up and miss the transition from light to deep sleep.
You can read more about this here
Where to take your baby’s temperature?
When taking your baby’s core temperature, it is important to take it at the correct location as some locations are more like skin temperature and others a more like core temperature.
In most instances, the best place to take your baby’s core temperature is under the armpit. You can also use a thermometer in the mouth or rectally, but they tend to be more uncomfortable and difficult.
Tympanic thermometers are also another good means of detecting core temperature and should be used in the ear with the probe pointing directly at the ear drum or tympanic membrane.
Infrared thermometers can be used by scanning the forehead; however, care should be taken with infrared thermometers and if your baby really is hyperthermic or hypothermic they are typically inaccurate. However infrared thermometers can be good to get a gauge of your baby’s normal temperature. You can read more about this here and here
What’s the best way to measure temperature?
We have shown to you the importance of taking continuous temperature measurements, particularly of core and skin temperature. Currently, the only product on the market that does this is Goldilocks.
Goldilocks is a simple baby singlet that has temperature sensors seamlessly screen printed onto it. Because babies wear singlets continuously it is taking temperature readings every 30 seconds and from this data, we can build a very good picture of what your baby’s normal temperature is. It even changes over time as your baby grows and develops and potential changes to their core temperature.
The reason we built Goldilocks was because of the questions at the start (What is my baby’s temperature? What baby’s temperature is too high? How long has my baby’s temperature been high/low? What do we do when our baby’s temperature is high? Can my baby’s temperature be too low?) and Goldilocks can simply answer those questions in a safe and effective manner.
But also, it can provide greater insights into other questions like; did my baby wake because they were too cold? My baby’s skin temperature is high, but is their core temperature? Is my baby wearing enough clothes? But Goldilocks doesn’t just track temperature, Goldilocks also connects you to clinicians who can provide advice and help as required.
As parents, we found this to be incredibly useful and helped us be calm and confident parents.