Should I give my baby a sponge bath or a drawn bath to lower his fever?
Jo Ann Rohyans pediatrician
Not usually. You do need to pay attention to your baby's fever, though. If your baby's under 3 months old and has a temperature over 100.4 degrees F, you should take him to the doctor rather than try to bring his fever down yourself. If your baby's between 3 and 6 months old, take him to the doctor if his temperature reaches 101 degrees F. And if your baby's 6 to 12 months old, take him to the doctor if his temperature reaches 103 degrees F.
If your baby's fever is below these markers and he's eating and acting okay, you don't need to do anything to bring his fever down. In fact, because a fever can help your baby fight an infection, it's a good idea to let it run its course. Of course, if your baby's fever climbs it can make you nervous (especially if he's had a febrile seizure before) and him uncomfortable. If that's the case, ask his doctor if you can give him the appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen to bring the fever down so that he — and you — can rest.
If fever-reducing medication isn't an option for your baby — because he doesn't take medicine very well, or you'd rather not give him any — a lukewarm bath or sponge bath won't hurt him, and it may help reduce his temperature. (Bathing a child with a fever was common practice before fever reducers were available.) Just make sure that the water is lukewarm to warm, not cool, because shivering can actually raise your baby's temperature rather than help bring it down.
You might also find that your baby enjoys a cool washcloth on his forehead. Alcohol baths used to be popular but are no longer recommended because they can cool your baby too quickly, which can cause his temperature to spike dangerously.
Keep in mind, too, that bundling your baby up can raise his temperature, so if you're trying to bring down his fever, don't pile on the clothes or the covers.
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