|What Is A Fever?
A normal body temperature is 36-38F (96.8-100.4F). A fever is when temperature remains higher than this for some time. Most fevers are caused by flu, chickenpox, meningitis or following a bite or open wound. A raised temperature is an indication that the body is fighting infection. Virus and bacteria die when the temperature of the body rises, so a fever is not necessarily a bad thing. A fever, while uncomfortable, is generally only considered dangerous when it reaches 103 F (39.4 C) or higher in adults. For infants and younger children, just a slightly elevated temperature can indicate serious problems. We restrict this article to the treatment of fever in adults.
What Is A Low Grade Fever?
A low grade fever is a slightly elevated temperature that is still below 102F. Low grade fevers tend not to require treatment and usually pass after rest and drinking fluids. Doctor's don't always recommend lowering low-grade fevers because it may prolong the underlying illness by interfering with the body's immune response. High grade fevers (103F or above) on the other hand, particularly if accompanied by other symptoms such as rash, severe headaches, stiff neck, vomiting and sensitivity to light usually require medical intervention.
How Is A Fever Treated?
1. Take Your Temperature
Take your temperature. If it is below 102F, no treatment is necessary. Allow the fever to pass naturally. If the temperature is above 102F, then:
2. Cool Your Body Down
Make yourself as comfortable as possible. Ensure that your surroundings are cool, open a window or use a fan. If you are in bed, cover yourself with a light blanket, avoid over-heating. Place cool cloths or sponges on your forehead, neck and lower legs. When the cloth is warm, remove it before it causes you to shiver. Take care at all times not to over-cool. Shivering is not good because it increases the body’s core temperature making your fever worse. If you have a bath or shower make the water lukewarm (85 to 90F (29 to 32C). At any time if you start shivering, dry off and immediately wrap up in warm clothes until shivering abates.
3. Drink Plenty
Drink lots of cool drinks like water and chilled fruit juices. Sip the drinks slowly to avoid feeling sick. Eat cold foods like ice cream or popsicles, and suck on ice cubes.
4. Over The Counter Medications
Acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Nurofen) are good for bringing down a fever. If you are taking fever-reducing medications, make sure you are not combining them with other over-the-counter flu remedies that also contain ibuprofen, aspirin or acetaminophen. Two hours after taking these medications, you should notice a drop in temperature by 2 to 3F (1 to 1.5 C).
Note: Anecdotically some patients report worsening symptoms after taking ibuprofen. If you notice worsening symptoms stop taking it.
When Is A Fever Dangerous?
Call your doctor if:
1. You have a temperature more than 103 F (39.4 C) and it stays that way or keeps rising.
2. You have a fever over 105F (40.5 C), unless it comes down with home treatment.
3. Your temperature has lasted more than 3 days.
4. You have had a low-grade fever that comes and goes for more than a week.
5. You suffer from a serious disease such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, heart problems, sickle cell anemia, lung complications or COPD.
6. You have a raised temperature accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
• Severe sore throat
• Severe headaches
• Stiff neck and pain when you try to bend your neck forward
• Unusual rash or bruises which appear rapidly
• Sensitivity to bright lights
• Persistent vomiting
• Pain on urination
• Chest pain and breathing difficulties
• Mental confusion
What is the cause of your fever? Check our A to Z to fever with:
Abdominal problems: like nausea, appetite loss and vomiting.
Back problems: intense back pain with fever.
Bone and joint problems: tiredness, weight loss and rash.
Chest condition: dry cough, fatigue.
Head problems: muscle aches, hair loss and mouth ulcers.
Reproductive disorders: Shivering, stabbing pain, shortness of breath.
Back to: How to treat common illnesses.