Newborn Temperature FAQs
Q: What is a normal body temperature for my baby?
A baby’s normal body temperature is between 98.0o F and 99.0o F (under the armpit). It usually rises during the day—it is lower in the morning and higher later in the day. Your baby’s temperature can go up slightly if he or she is wearing too many clothes, having a bath, or outside in hot weather.
Q: What is a fever?
Fever is a symptom, not an actual illness. A fever means your baby may be sick. You must look at other symptoms to find out how serious the illness is. It is important to look at:
- How your baby is eating
- How your baby is acting (fussy, restless, or more sleepy than usual)
- How your baby is looking (skin may be red)
Although it may be scary when your baby’s temperature goes above the normal range, a fever itself is not harmful.
Q: When do I need to take my baby's temperature?
If you think your baby may be sick or not acting normally, you should take your baby’s temperature before calling his or her care provider. You may also want to check the temperature if your baby feels warm or cool to your touch.
Q: How do I take my baby's temperature? What kind of thermometer should I use to take my baby's temperature?
You can often tell if your baby is warmer than usual by feeling his or her tummy. Only a thermometer, though, can tell you if your baby has a fever and how high the temperature is. There are several kinds of thermometers. Check with your baby’s care provider about what kind of thermometer to use. If your baby’s care provider recommends doing rectal temperatures, ask your baby’s provider how to do them correctly.
Digital underarm (axillary) thermometers: Here are the steps for using an underarm thermometer:
- Place the sensor end of the digital thermometer under your baby’s arm (armpit).
- Hold his or her arm tightly against his or her chest for about 1 minute, until you hear the “beep.”
- Check the digital reading.
Mercury thermometers: Do not use this type of thermometer. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to remove mercury thermometers from their homes to prevent accidental exposure to mercury (a toxic substance).
Q: When should I call my baby's care provider?
Call your baby’s care provider if:
- Your baby’s temperature is over 100.4o F
- Your baby’s temperature is less than 97.8o F
- Your baby looks sick or is unusually sleepy or hard to wake up
- Your baby is fussy
- Your baby is much less alert and active than usual
- Your baby doesn’t eat as well
- Your baby has fewer wet diapers than usual
- Your baby has loose stools or diarrhea
Your baby has seizures
Q: How should I dress my baby? How do I know if my baby is warm enough?
New parents may tend to overdress their baby. One tip is to dress your baby in one more layer than how you dress yourself to feel comfortable. Dress your baby for sleep so that he or she will not need a blanket for warmth.
Q: At what temperature should I keep my baby’s room?
Babies should be warm but they should not be too warm. Keep the temperature in your baby’s room so it feels comfortable to you. Babies that are overheated have a higher risk of Sudden Infant Death syndrome (SIDS).
Q: What is a safe bath water temperature for my baby?
Test the bath water’s temperature on your forearm or on the back of your hand before putting your baby in bath water. When using tap water, always turn on the cold water first, and then add hot water. When finished, turn off the hot water first. Another precaution is to set the temperature on your hot water heater at 120o F or lower.
Q: How can I protect my baby from the sun and avoid overheating?
Your baby will enjoy being outside, if dressed right. Remember, your baby’s skin is more sensitive than your skin and it sunburns easily. If your baby will be outside for any length of time, protect his or her skin with clothing and a hat. It’s also a good idea to place your baby in the shade to prevent overexposure to the sun. Babies don’t sweat easily and can become overheated.
- Babies under 6 months of age should not be in direct sunlight. Move your baby to the shade—under a tree, umbrella, or stroller canopy.
- Dress your baby in clothing that covers the body, such as comfortable lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and hats with brims that shade the face and cover the ears.
- Select clothing made of tightly woven fabrics. Clothes that have a tighter weave—how close the fibers are—generally protect better than clothes with a broader weave. If you’re not sure how tight a fabric’s weave is, hold the clothing up to a lamp or window and see how much light shines through. The less light the better. Clothing made of cotton is both cool and protective.
- Baby-sized sunglasses with UV protection are a good idea for protecting your child’s eyes.
Q: Can I use sunscreen on my baby? How do I use sunscreen for my baby?
You should use sunscreens for sun protection. Do not use it as a reason for your baby to stay in the sun longer. Follow these tips, if you use sunscreen:
- Choose a sunscreen made for babies.
- For babies less than 6 months of age, use small amounts of sunscreen on small areas of the body such as the face and backs of the hands if adequate clothing and shade are not available.
- When choosing a sunscreen, look for the words “broad spectrum” on the label – it means the sunscreen will screen out both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays.
- Choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
- Apply carefully around the eyes, avoiding the eyelids. If your baby rubs sunscreen into his or her eyes, wipe his or her eyes and hands clean with a damp cloth. If the sunscreen irritates his or her eyes, try a different brand or try a sunscreen stick or sunblock with titanium oxide or zinc oxide. If a rash develops, consult your baby’s care provider.
- Put sunscreen on 30 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply sunscreen frequently.
If your baby gets sunburn, contact your baby’s care provider at once – severe sunburn is an emergency.