My Experience with Fever in a Newborn (with Hospitalization)

This week has been by far the scariest moments for us as parents so far. All the images below are from the hours after her birth, not from her hospitalization – as I couldn’t bare to take any photos of her with IVs and wires.

After being discharged from the hospital with our new baby girl, less than two days later, we had a routine follow-up checkup appointment.  She hadn’t been home for more than 36 hours.

On our 25 minute drive to the pediatrician’s office, baby girl was not having it. She was crying hysterically on our drive to the pediatrician’s office.

For all of our other children, the initial pediatrician appointment’s climactic moment typically is finding out whether baby had regained their original birth weight.  

At first, the visit was nothing out of the ordinary. We undressed our little girl to get her weight and head circumference. Then the nurse took her temperature. TWICE. Distracted, I was digging in my purse for her immunization card while Ryan was watching the nurse take vitals. The nurse told us to wait a moment while she took our baby girl out of the room to check her temperature.

Ryan looked over at me and said, “Well, that’s odd. They’ve never done that before. They said she had a fever. Why would they take her out of the room? They don’t typically do that do they?”

I responded, “Don’t be all pessimistic and think bad things. They probably just don’t have a thermometer that is working.”

And the nurse came back in with the doctor…

Our baby girl had a fever of 100.8 after measuring her temperature three times. With anything over 100.4 in a newborn less than 30 days old, the protocol is to admit them to the hospital to rule out any bacterial infection. A bacterial infection could be a very very bad thing.

At this point, Ryan and I were trying our best to digest the information. Baby girl would be directly admitted into the hospital for at least 48 hours. I don’t think I completely processed the information as the pediatrician was talking to me. “Ruling out a possibly bacterial infection …” I had no idea what to think. Ryan was asking a ton of questions, and I was just in shock.

All the while, we were also scrambling to make last minute arrangements on how we would get the other kids picked up from daycare, how we could get clothes/supplies backed for at least a 48 hour overnight stay at the hospital and what we could have done to prevent all of this.

The things that were crossing through my mind was:

  • Did her constant crying in the car lead her temperature to go up in a span of 25 minutes?
  • Did the pediatrician overreact? Was their thermometer wrong?
  • Should we have stayed longer in the hospital with baby girl? Our stay in the hospital was shorter because she arrived a little before midnight, which counted towards the minimum hospital stay before we could be discharged after birth. 
  • Did we introduce baby girl too early to her siblings? Did we forget to wash their hands before touching her?
  • Did we do a bad job of requiring other people to wash their hands before touching her?

As we were driving from the pediatrician’s office directly to the children’s hospital, I was pretty calm because I was still digesting all of the information.

After we arrived and got registered, the nurses directed us towards our room. When I saw the hospital crib, IV stands, blood pressure cuffs – it all hit me at once. I turned around and started bawling. The visual of all of it along with what would be happening to my little girl was just too much.

There was a flurry of nursing and care assistants walking in and out of the room. They put in an IV into her little tiny hand. They added a wired stickies on her for the heart monitor and wrapped her toes with a pulse bandage for the pulse/oxygen monitors. It was just too much for me to see her with all these wires attached to her.

When they took her temperature at the hospital, there was no fever. NONE. NADA. But the hospitalist told us that it would be safer to have her admitted. Throughout our 48 hour stay, they would not find a fever with her AT ALL.

They told me that they would be running all of these tests to rule out any possible bacterial infection on my baby girl. These tests included a viral panel to pinpoint any type of virus, a head sonogram to rule out any swelling, culture swabs to rule out any bacterial infection and the worst of it, a spinal tap/lumbar puncture to rule out any bacterial infection in her spinal fluid. This would be over the course of 48 hours. In most circumstances, our pediatrician and hospitalist told us that they typically don’t find anything, but it is used as a precaution. However, in the off chance they do find something, it is important to start treatment as early as possible.

They would also be giving her three antibiotics as preventative treatment in the event that the results came back as a bacterial infection. They would start the antibiotics early as we wait for the results. The reasoning was because it was treating the bacterial infection (if there is one) is important in the very early hours of detection rather than waiting for the results.

Imagine having just given birth to your baby girl and she had been home for less than 36 hours – with no sleep. The nurses and care assistants came in every 45 minutes to do vitals, give medicine and talking to me the first 24 hours we were there. AROUND THE CLOCK.

These initial 24 hours were horrible. A few of my requests to the staff went unheard and unacknowledged. The nurse that was assigned to us the first overnight poked and prodded at my little girl for what seemed like every 30-45 minutes. At around midnight, I literally broke down and couldn’t mentally take it anymore. 

At one point, I really considered leaving against medical advice (AMA). After googling this possibility, since it wasn’t me as the patient and it was my child, there was the possibility of the hospital involving Child Protective Services – so I erased that thought from my head (you should google this, there are a lot of interesting cases around this).

 After a few choice words to the hospitalist and charge nurse after the overnight shift, the next 24 hours went a little better. 

In the end, all of the results came back negative or with no findings. The provider literally said, “We have no reason to keep you. But it is disconcerting that we couldn’t pinpoint her fever to anything.” I wasn’t disconcerted at all – I was happy to get out of there.

I just wanted to be home with my entire family. And home we went at 3:00pm the third day.

It was so good to break away from that place. As the nurse walked us out of the door, I said to her, “No offense, but I hope to never see you or this place again.”

The lessons I learned from this were:

  • Make everyone wash their hands or stay away when they are sick. I thought this was a Millennial helicopter “parent” thing, but now I know how important this is.
  • Be an advocate for you and your child’s care – ask for a new nurse or care assistant when your voice isn’t heard.
  • Ask lots of questions – even if the doctor gets annoyed, reask the question to ensure you understand.
  • Know the medication your baby is being given – ask for a list.
  • Have a “phone-a-friend” that you can run your thoughts by – preferably a clinician – to reassure you or help you navigate this intense time.

My little glimpse into this life has been heartbreaking to say the least. Fortunately, we were blessed that it didn’t take a turn for the worst. To other parents going through a hospitalization of a child, you are in my thoughts and prayers. 

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Working mom, loving wife, lifestyle blogger, family photographer, and the ultimate purveyor of the "honey do list".

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