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Sponge Bath for a Child's Fever

Topic Overview

A sponge bath may be given if:

  • Your child's fever is 104°F (40°C) or higher and
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen has not lowered the temperature and
  • Your child is very uncomfortable.

Give your child an appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen before giving him or her a sponge bath. Wait 30 minutes to see whether the medicine brings the child's fever below 104°F (40°C).

  • Acetaminophen can be found in many forms and comes in different doses.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not give your child more than the maximum dose recommended on the label.
  • Be careful when giving your child over-the-counter cold or flu medicines and acetaminophen (Tylenol) at the same time. Many of these medicines already contain acetaminophen. Too much acetaminophen can be harmful.
  • Do not use other nonprescription medicines, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), until you have talked with your health professional.

Give a sponge bath as follows:

  • Use lukewarm water [ 90°F (32.2°C) to 95°F (35°C)] . Do not use cold water, ice, or rubbing alcohol, which will lower the child's body temperature too quickly.
  • Sponge for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Stop if the child starts to shiver.

If your child doesn't like the sponge bath or doesn't feel better after the bath, there is no need to give another one.

Credits

Current as of: June 26, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency Medicine
David Messenger MD

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