Recognizing Fever-Related Complications in Children

Medically Reviewed by Dr Jackie Lam (M.B.B.S. Singapore)

Fevers are a common occurrence in children and are often a natural response to infections. While most fevers are benign and can be managed with proper care, it is crucial for parents and caregivers to recognize when a fever might indicate a more serious condition. 

Understanding fever-related complications can help in seeking timely medical intervention, ensuring the well-being of the child. This article focuses on recognizing fever-related complications in children, with insights tailored for parents in Singapore.

Understanding Fever in Children

A fever in children is typically defined as a body temperature above 38°C (100.4°F). It is a symptom rather than a disease, signaling that the body is fighting an infection. Common causes of fever include viral infections, bacterial infections, and inflammatory conditions. While fevers themselves are usually not harmful, they can sometimes lead to or indicate more severe health issues.

Common Symptoms Associated with Fever in Children

Before we look into its complications, it’s important to recognize the typical symptoms that accompany fever in children:

  • Elevated body temperature
  • Chills and shivering
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability or lethargy

These symptoms often resolve as the underlying infection is treated. However, persistent or severe symptoms may indicate complications that require medical attention.

Recognizing Fever-Related Complications

Febrile Seizures

Febrile seizures are convulsions triggered by a sudden spike in body temperature, most commonly affecting children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. Although alarming, febrile seizures are generally not harmful and do not cause long-term health issues.

Signs of Febrile Seizures

  • Uncontrollable shaking or jerking of limbs
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rolling eyes
  • Stiffening of the body

Action Steps: If a child experiences a febrile seizure, remain calm, and ensure they are in a safe position. Place the child on their side to prevent choking and do not put anything in their mouth. Seek medical attention immediately to determine the cause of the fever and to receive appropriate care.


Children with a fever are at higher risk of dehydration due to increased body temperature and fluid loss through sweating. Dehydration can become severe if not addressed promptly.

Signs of Dehydration

  • Dry mouth and tongue
  • Sunken eyes
  • Reduced urine output
  • Crying without tears
  • Lethargy or irritability

Action Steps: Ensure the child drinks plenty of fluids. Oral rehydration solutions can be particularly effective. If dehydration signs persist, consult a healthcare professional promptly.

Severe Infections

Sometimes, fever in children can be a sign of more serious infections such as meningitis, pneumonia, or urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Signs of Severe Infections

  • Persistent high fever (above 40°C)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe headache or neck stiffness
  • Rash that doesn’t fade with pressure
  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Extreme fatigue or unresponsiveness

Action Steps: If you notice any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment of severe infections are crucial for preventing complications.

Kawasaki Disease

Kawasaki disease is a rare but serious condition that primarily affects children under the age of 5. It causes inflammation of the blood vessels and can lead to heart complications if not treated.

Signs of Kawasaki Disease

  • High fever lasting more than five days
  • Red eyes without discharge
  • Rash on the body
  • Swollen, red lips and tongue (strawberry tongue)
  • Swollen hands and feet with peeling skin

Action Steps: If your child exhibits symptoms of Kawasaki disease, seek medical attention immediately. Early treatment is vital to prevent long-term heart issues.

Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke

In hot climates like Singapore, fever can exacerbate the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, especially in children who are active outdoors.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion

  • Heavy sweating
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or fainting

Signs of Heatstroke

  • High body temperature (above 39°C)
  • Hot, dry skin
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Confusion or unconsciousness

Action Steps: Move the child to a cooler environment, hydrate them, and apply cool, wet cloths to their skin. For heat stroke, seek emergency medical care immediately, as it is a life-threatening condition.

Preventive Measures and Home Care

While it is essential to recognize complications, preventive measures and proper home care can mitigate the risks associated with children fever.

Keeping Hydrated

Ensuring that children drink plenty of fluids is critical. Water, oral rehydration solutions, and clear broths are excellent choices.

Monitoring Fever

Regularly check the child’s temperature using a reliable thermometer. Keep a record of the fever pattern and any accompanying symptoms.

Appropriate Medication

Use fever-reducing medications like paracetamol or ibuprofen, as recommended by a healthcare provider. Avoid giving aspirin to children due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome.

Creating a Comfortable Environment

Dress the child in lightweight clothing and keep the room cool. Offer lukewarm baths to help lower body temperature without causing chills.

When to Seek Medical Attention

While many fevers can be managed at home, it is crucial to seek medical attention if:

  • The child is younger than three months old with a fever
  • The fever lasts more than three days
  • The child exhibits severe symptoms or signs of complications
  • The child has a known medical condition or weakened immune system


Understanding and recognizing fever-related complications in children is vital for ensuring their health and safety. While most fevers are benign and manageable at home, awareness of potential complications such as febrile seizures, dehydration, severe infections, Kawasaki disease, and heat-related illnesses can help parents act swiftly and appropriately.

In Singapore, access to quality healthcare is readily available. If your child exhibits concerning symptoms or you are unsure about managing their fever, seeking professional medical advice is crucial. 

For comprehensive care and professional guidance on managing children’s fever, we can help. Click here and find out how our experienced pediatricians and healthcare professionals can provide the necessary support and treatment to ensure your child’s health and well-being.

References Fever Children. 2017. Fever in Children: Pearls and Pitfalls. Febrile Seizure (Children). 2023. Fever in Infants and Children.

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