Fever that won’t go away in adults


Fever in Adults

Adults usually don’t spend much time worrying about fevers — unless they happen to have a sick child. But children aren’t the only ones who get overheated. At one time or another, adults eventually have to face fevers of their own.

As with childhood fevers, most fevers that strike adults are short-lived and harmless. Occasionally, however, a prolonged fever may be a symptom of a serious illness. In extreme cases, the fever itself may pose a real threat to health.

When is it a fever?

Not everybody sticks to the 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit benchmark. Some people typically run higher than 99 degrees, while others go down to 97 degrees or lower. Temperature varies during the day — usually it’s a little higher in the afternoon than in the morning. When your temperature rises higher than normal, you have a fever.

What causes a fever?

If you have a fever, chances are you also have an unwelcome virus or bacteria. When your immune system detects an intruder, it releases chemical messages that reset your internal thermostat. As your body fights the infection, your body temperature slowly rises, making life a little harder for the invading germ. Of course, your life will get a little harder, too. But in the end, you’ll likely be on the winning side.

Usually, there isn’t much mystery to a fever. When you have the flu, for instance, you won’t be surprised when your temperature rises. Occasionally, however, adults will develop a lingering fever with no obvious cause. Doctors call this a fever of unknown origin or FUO. Many such fevers turn out to be hard-to-spot infections, such as infections of internal organs. Other possible causes include reactions to drugs or medications, cancer (especially lymphomas), or certain inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Still’s disease.

How should I treat a fever?

Most fevers will go away on their own within a day or two. But instead of just waiting around for relief, you can take steps to speed your recovery and increase your comfort.

Fevers can usually be brought down quickly with common pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Aspirin will work too, but it should never be given to children or teens. In children and adolescents it can trigger Reye’s syndrome, a potentially lethal liver disease.

You should also be sure to drink plenty of liquids such as water or fruit juices. Liquids cool you down from the inside and help prevent dehydration.

You may be tempted to turn down the thermostat in the house or slip into a lukewarm bath, but these steps probably won’t help bring down your fever for very long. In fact, they may encourage your body to conserve heat, making you even warmer than you were before.

Some common wisdom dictates that a fever should be allowed to run its course without interference to help it eliminate the germ that’s making you sick. Indeed, some studies show that intervening to reduce a fever may prolong the infection, but doctors disagree on this.

When should I call the doctor?

According to an article in the Mayo Clinic, you should call a doctor if:

  • Your temperature climbs above 103 degrees
  • Your fever has lasted for more than three days.

When should I seek emergency help?

In some cases, a fever can be an emergency situation. For instance, a fever that climbs above 106 degrees can cause a coma or brain damage: If you have a 106 degree fever, call 911 or go to an emergency room right away.

In addition, call 911 or go to an emergency room right away if:

  • You have a fever without sweating after being out in the sun or after spending some hours in a very hot place and experiencing a rapid heartbeat, confusion, dizziness, or coma: You may have heat stroke.
  • Your fever is accompanied by a painful headache, nausea, confusion, a stiff neck, drowsiness, and a red or purple rash: You may have meningitis.
  • Your fever is accompanied by a stiff jaw, sweating, muscle spasms and pain, and trouble swallowing: you may have tetanus.
  • A high fever is accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea, red rash, tiredness, confusion, headache, and dizziness: You may have Toxic Shock Syndrome.

Call your doctor immediately if:

  • You have a sudden fever with chills, confusion, a pounding heart, and signs of infection: you may have blood poisoning. If you can’t get your doctor, call 911 or go to the emergency room.

You should also call a doctor immediately if one of these symptoms occurs along with the fever:

  • Confusion or extreme sleepiness
  • Stiff neck
  • Rash
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Painful urination
  • Swollen legs
  • Red, hot, or swollen patches of skin
  • Hallucinations or confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Extreme weakness

What can a doctor do about my fever?

The best way to treat a fever is to attack it at its source. Unfortunately, that source can be very hard to find. If the cause of your fever isn’t immediately obvious, your doctor will treat the symptoms and begin the search.

Among other things, your doctor may take samples of blood, mucus, urine, and stool to look for signs of hidden infections. Other possible tests include liver tests, spinal taps, X-rays, and CT scans. Once the cause has been determined, your doctor can develop an appropriate treatment plan.

As with any tricky diagnosis, personal information can be extremely valuable. Be sure to tell your doctor if you’ve recently traveled somewhere with poor sanitation. You should also list all of your current medications (including illicit drugs) and any recent surgeries. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may also ask about your sexual history.

Even in this age of high-tech medicine, some fevers still can’t be explained. If your doctor can’t pinpoint the source of your problem, don’t panic. Keep in mind that serious diseases — including cancer — usually don’t escape detection for long.

That’s the way it is with fevers: In most cases, cooler heads eventually prevail.

Ellis KA. Fever, adults. eMedicine, Vol. 1(11).

Johns Hopkins Family Health Book, HarperCollins.

Hirschmann JV. Fever of unknown origin in adults. Clinical Infectious Diseases,24: 291-302.

Mayo Clinic. Fever. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fever/DS00077

This material must not be used for commercial purposes, or in any hospital or medical facility. Failure to comply may result in legal action.

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Sep 24, 2019.

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A fever is an increase in your body temperature. Normal body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C). Fever is generally defined as greater than 100.4°F (38°C).

What are common causes of a fever?

The cause of your fever may not be known. This is called fever of unknown origin. It occurs when you have a fever above 100.9˚F (38.3°C) for 3 weeks or more. The following are common causes of fever:

  • An infection caused by a virus or bacteria
  • An inflammatory disorder, such as arthritis
  • A brain infection or injury
  • Alcohol or illegal drug use, or withdrawal

What other signs and symptoms may I have?

  • Chills and shivers
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Fever that comes and goes.
  • Fever that is higher in the morning.

How is the cause of a fever diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask when your fever began and how high it was. He or she will ask about other symptoms and examine you for signs of infection. He or she will feel your neck for lumps and listen to your heart and lungs. Tell your provider if you recently had surgery or an infection. Tell him or her if you have any medical conditions, such as diabetes or arthritis. You may also need blood or urine tests to check for infection. Ask about other tests you may need if blood and urine tests do not explain the cause of your fever.

How is a fever treated?

You may need any of the following, depending on the cause of your fever:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor’s order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child’s healthcare provider.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor’s order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • Antibiotics may be given if you have an infection caused by bacteria.

What can I do to be more comfortable while I have a fever?

  • Drink more liquids as directed. A fever makes you sweat. This can increase your risk for dehydration. Liquids can help prevent dehydration.
    • Drink at least 6 to 8 eight-ounce cups of clear liquids each day. Drink water, juice, or broth. Do not drink sports drinks. They may contain caffeine.
    • Ask your healthcare provider if you should drink an oral rehydration solution (ORS). An ORS has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar you need to replace body fluids.
  • Dress in lightweight clothes. Shivers may be a sign that your fever is rising. Do not put extra blankets or clothes on. This may cause your fever to rise even higher. Dress in light, comfortable clothing. Use a lightweight blanket or sheet when you sleep. Change your clothes, blanket, or sheets if they get wet.
  • Cool yourself safely. Take a bath in cool or lukewarm water. Use an ice pack wrapped in a small towel or wet a washcloth with cool water. Place the ice pack or wet washcloth on your forehead or the back of your neck.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your fever does not go away or gets worse even after treatment.
  • You have a stiff neck and a bad headache.
  • You are confused. You may not be able to think clearly or remember things like you normally do.
  • Your heart beats faster than usual even after treatment.
  • You have shortness of breath or chest pain when you breathe.
  • You urinate small amounts or not at all.
  • Your skin, lips, or nails turn blue.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have abdominal pain or feel bloated.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • You have pain or burning when you urinate, or you have pain in your back.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Causes and treatment of a persistent low grade fever

A persistent low grade fever is typically a sign that the body is fighting off an infection or another health issue and has raised its temperature to help these efforts.

These underlying issues can include:

Respiratory infections can cause a persistent low grade fever. Some of the most common respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu, may cause a low grade fever that lasts for as long as the body takes to fight off the infection.

Other symptoms that may indicate a respiratory infection include:

  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • a stuffy or runny nose
  • a sore throat
  • chills
  • general fatigue
  • lack of appetite

Many simple respiratory infections do not require treatment, and the symptoms will go away in time.

Urinary tract infections

A urinary tract infection (UTI) may also be the underlying cause of a low grade fever. A UTI is a bacterial infection that occurs when bacteria multiply anywhere in the urinary tract, which includes the bladder, urethra, kidneys, and ureters.

In addition to a low grade fever, the person may experience symptoms such as:

  • pain in the abdomen
  • a burning sensation while peeing
  • frequent urination
  • a constant urge to urinate
  • dark urine

Most UTIs are simple to treat with antibiotics. The doctor may analyze a urine sample to determine the precise type of bacteria causing the infection to ensure that they prescribe the right treatment.

Other infections

Share on PinterestA person should talk to their doctor if they experience any symptoms of infection alongside a fever.

Almost any infection can cause a fever. A fever is one of the body’s natural responses to foreign invaders. The body may keep its core temperature elevated while it is fighting off the infection.

Other sources of infections that may cause a low grade fever include:

  • food poisoning
  • exposure to pathogens from livestock
  • tuberculosis
  • meningitis

Anyone experiencing symptoms of infection alongside a fever should see a doctor if the symptoms do not improve with rest and time.

Some medications can cause many different side effects, which may include a low grade fever. People can check the information on side effects and interactions that comes in the packaging or seek advice from a pharmacist.

As the author of a 2018 review notes, if the medication is the cause, the fever should go away very quickly — typically within 72 hours — once the person stops taking the drug.

Chronic stress may cause a low grade fever. A research paper from 2015 notes that a fever due to stress is most common in young women.

Reducing stress levels may resolve the fever in these cases.

In rare cases, a persistent low grade fever with no known cause may be a sign of cancer.

A persistent fever can be a symptom of leukemia, Hodgkin disease, or non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The person may also experience other symptoms of cancer, including:

  • persistent fatigue
  • weakness
  • headaches
  • infections
  • lack of appetite
  • excessive bruising or bleeding
  • unexplained weight loss
  • enlarged lymph nodes
  • excessive sweating at night

Many of these symptoms are not unique to cancer, however.

Anyone who experiences these symptoms along with a low grade fever should see a doctor for a diagnosis.

Chronic disorders

Many other chronic disorders may cause symptoms such as a low grade fever, including:

  • thromboembolic disease
  • arthritis
  • lupus
  • gout
  • thyroiditis
  • serum sickness-like reactions
  • serotonin syndrome
  • neuroleptic malignant syndrome

Conversion Temperature Celsius / Fahrenheit : online calculator

convert Celsius to Fahrenheit or Fahrenheit to Celsius

Enter your value in one of the boxes and press enter, results are automatically calculated.

Temperature in degree Celsius (°C) :
Temperature in degree Fahrenheit (°F) :

Formula to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius

The equation that gives the exact conversion from degree Fahrenheit to degree Celsius is
T(°C) = (T(°F) – 32)/1,8

Formula to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit

The equation that gives the exact conversion from Celsius degree to Fahrenheit degree is

T(°F) = T(°C)×1,8 + 32

Definition of degree Celsius

Celsius is a measurement of temperature in which 0 degrees represents the freezing point of water, and 100 degrees represents water’s boiling point at the standard atmosphere, which is the mean barometric pressure at the mean sea level.

Definition of Fahrenheit

Fahrenheit is a temperature scale that bases the boiling point of water at 212 and the freezing point at 32. It was developed by Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, a German-born scientist who lived and worked primarily in the Netherlands. Today, the scale is used primarily in the United States and some Caribbean countries. The rest of the world uses the Celsius scale.

Treatment tips for breaking a fever

People should call a doctor about a fever if:

Share on PinterestA doctor should be consulted if a fever lasts longer than 3 days.

  • It rises above 105°F
  • The fever lasts longer than 3 days, or remains high in spite of home treatment
  • The fever is accompanied by a rash
  • The fever is associated with intense pain or swelling in any area of the body, which suggests an infection

People should seek emergency medical care for a fever if:

  • A child experiences a seizure for the first time, or a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes
  • The person or their child has a weakened immune system
  • The fever is accompanied by confusion or loss of consciousness
  • The fever is accompanied by a rapidly spreading rash or a wound with streaks, which suggests a serious tissue infection
  • The fever is accompanied by signs of dehydration, such as very dark urine or urinating less than three times a day
  • The child is under 3 months old

Fevers in young babies and other vulnerable populations

Babies under 3 months old have underdeveloped immune systems. They are also poorly equipped to manage a fever. If a baby is younger than 3 months old, they should not receive fever-lowering medication. Caregivers should call a doctor or go to the emergency room, since a fever can signal a dangerous infection.

Some babies and young children experience seizures during a fever. Although they are frightening, febrile seizures typically cause brain damage only when they exceed 30 minutes in length.

Typical fever management strategies can help children feel better, but they won’t prevent febrile seizures. Instead, caregivers should keep the child as safe as possible during the seizure by:

  • Placing the child on their side on a flat, protected surface to minimize the risk of injury
  • Monitoring the child to ensure they do not choke
  • Timing the seizure and contacting emergency services if the seizure exceeds 5 minutes

If a child experiences a febrile seizure, they should see a pediatrician. A doctor may recommend treatment with phenobarbitol or a similar drug if the child lives in a remote region where emergency services are inaccessible, or if the child has a history of very long seizures.

Some other groups also need immediate medical attention for a fever. Prompt care is needed if:

  • The person with the fever has cancer or another life-threatening illness
  • The person with the fever has HIV or AIDS, or takes drugs that suppress their immune system
  • Their doctor has said that they have a condition that makes fevers dangerous

Emergency Room Issues- Natural Strategies (Fever)

I recently heard from a friend who had taken her young child to the emergency room. He was about 1 year old at the time and they had been in a big panic. I will admit to wondering what else was wrong to make them head to the hospital when she revealed that his temperature was 102. I nodded, and waited to hear something else…. like he couldn’t catch his breath…. or he just wouldn’t keep any food down and it had been a couple of days…. so my expression must not have looked very sympathetic. Especially when that was it. That was the extent of her story. Of course, then I did show some sympathy, but not for what she thought. I was sorry for her that they had spent the night waiting in the emergency room. I was sorry for her that she and her husband along with their young child had been exposed to the germs in the hospital. I was mostly sorry for her that the big bill (that will most likely follow) was for a couple people to take their son’s temperature, blood pressure and ultimately to give him some fever reducing drug that will wind up stunting his immune system…. and all for no good reason.

What most people don’t know is that 102 in a child is not generally something to be too concerned about. We have been brainwashed to think that a fever is a syndrome in itself. There are how many different “fever” syrups and pills available over the counter? All of these well-intentioned parents that treat a fever are causing more harm than good. A fever is not a malfunction in the body that needs to be corrected, rather it is a sign that things are running appropriately and there is a fight going on. The body raises its temperature because a higher heat setting is often successful all on its own to kill off an overgrowth of bad guys. In children, a temperature can also mean no illness at all. This can often accompany the teething process.

One should NEVER interrupt a fever unless it is excessively high or prolonged. In an adult, when you start to head North of 102, it may be time to step in. In a child, you can see a temperature of 104 and still not necessarily be in too much trouble. You wouldn’t want to see temperatures hovering at the top of these ranges for very long, and definitely don’t want to see a temperature prolonged for more than a couple days. Every time we interrupt this natural process we cripple the immune system a little more… and we also give the invading army a chance to regroup and get stronger. Ever wonder why your child gets one illness, you break the fever quickly and then they keep getting the same or related illnesses again and again? This is how it’s done!

IF you have an excessively high or prolonged fever, or one that is accompanied by disorientation, it is time to intercede. And of course, it is worth mentioning that the safe temperature threshold may be reached at a much lower number in someone whose system started out compromised. As with any other natural treatment, one must always take into account the overall constitution of the person you’re treating. In a typical person though, when the usual threshold has been reached you can turn to the herbs that are classified as febrifuges.

Febrifuges are herbs that help to reduce a fever, usually by encouraging the sweat mechanism. Sweat is our body’s natural air conditioning. Once your “patient” breaks out into a sweat, you know the fever has broken and you’re on your way back down to normal. There are many herbs that can help out here, but my favorites are Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Elder (Sambucus canadensis) and Ginger (Zingiber officinale). There are different ways to get your patient to take these herbs…. it all depends on the other symptoms of the illness. If you can, I always prefer a tea, but you can use a bath or tincture as well. You can also use a combination of therapies. Pour a hot bath and put one or more anti-pyretic (another term for febrifuge) herbs in a large tea ball. Soak in the tub as long as it is comfortable, and if possible, this is a good time to sip your hot anti-pyretic tea. As soon as the bath is over, it is important to dry off quickly, dress warmly, wrap in several warm blankets and go straight to bed. You should be sweating in no time!! The last time I treated myself this way I had that sore throat that hurt even to swallow my own spit. My fever was 103 and going North, incidentally, my 9 month old daughter had a temp of 102… my husband didn’t understand the nature of fevers and was very concerned about my daughter and ignoring me. When he called my mom for some advice, she caught him off guard by asking if I was hallucinating! At any rate, I was able to tell Carson how to make a tea and bath for me but my fever was stubborn and wouldn’t break. I wound up asking him to wrap me up head to toe in several blankets and then lay down on top of me…. FINALLY this cooked me enough to start me sweating and I got better from there…. sounds extreme? Maybe, and it might not be the right thing for every illness or every person, but I can tell you I didn’t get that sore throat again as many others did!

Have a Fever Over 100? Here’s What to Do About Fever in Adults

A fever is a body temperature above 100.4°F. A normal oral temperature for a resting, healthy adult is about 98.6°F (37°C) (for someone over 70 normal temp is 96.8°F (36°C)). Your temperature can go up or down 1 to 2 degrees throughout the day. Fever is a sign of inflammation or infection and is a common symptom of illness. Fever is not a disease.

A fever is one way your body fights illness—your body temperature goes up to kill bacteria that cannot live at the higher temperatures. Although it may not be comfortable, a temperature of up to 102°F is generally good for you. Most healthy adults can tolerate a fever as high as 103°F to 104°F for short periods of time without having problems. Body temperatures usually return to normal with the illness goes away. Here are some fever symptoms in adults.

Ranges in Body Temperatures

A temperature above 100.4°F (38°C) indicates a fever, called pyrexia in medical terms.

Stages of Fever

A fever can be divided into three stages.

  1. Onset is when the temperature first begins to go up. The increase in temperature can be slow or sudden, the person can have chills and feel cold and breathing and heart rate increase.
  2. During the course of the fever the temperature can go up and down in one of three patterns: continuous, intermittent or remittent. During this stage, the person has an increased heart and breathing rate and feels warm to the touch. The person may also look flushed, feel thirsty, lose their appetite, have a headache and feel weak and tired.
  3. During the subsiding stage the temperature returns to normal. It can return gradually or suddenly. As the body temperature returns to normal, the person usually sweats and may become dehydrated due to loss of fluid from sweating.

How to Take Your Temperature – Fever in Adults

Adults should take their temperature under the tongue. Taking a temperature under the armpit is not very accurate.

Mercury Thermometer

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water.
  • Wash the thermometer in cold water.
  • Make sure the top of the mercury is down near the bulb.
  • To reset the thermometer, hold the thermometer firmly at the end opposite the mercury bulb and shake it with a downward flick of your wrist. This brings the mercury level down below the normal temperature level.
  • Put the bulb end of the thermometer under your tongue and close your mouth. Keep your mouth closed while you take your temp.
  • Wait 1 minute then take the thermometer out of your mouth. Hold the thermometer near light to read it; turn it slowly until you see the silver column of mercury. The number at the top of the mercury is your temperature. There is usually a mark on the thermometer showing a normal temperature at 98.6°F (37°C).
  • Rinse the thermometer in cold water and clean it with alcohol before putting it away. Be sure to put it out of the reach of children because the mercury can be harmful if the thermometer is broken. What to Do if a Mercury Thermometer Breaks

Digital Thermometers

Digital thermometers are becoming more common and are much less expensive than they used to be. They are easy to read, as they have a large digital display for numbers.

for a list of good thermometers. Before using, make sure the thermometer is clean and turned on. Remove the thermometer once it beeps. Clean it before you put it away.

How to Treat a Fever

  • Increase the amount of liquid you’re drinking, especially water. Your body may try to cool itself by sweating and you should replace this loss of fluid.
  • Take your temperature every two hours. Each time you take your temperature, write down your temperature and the time you took it.
  • Take your temperature before the end of two hours if your other symptoms change. For example, if you start throwing up or your temperature is going up each time you take it.
  • For fevers that are uncomfortable, sponge the body with lukewarm, not cold. water. Take acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen to get your fever down. Do not give aspirin or products that contain aspirin to children or teens under the age of 20.
  • Watch for signs of dehydration. Dehydration can happen if the fever causes you to sweat or you have other symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. Signs of dehydration include thirst, dry skin, dry mouth, chills, feeling tired or weak, and dark-colored urine.
  • Other fever remedies for adults.

When to Call Your Doctor

  • If your fever is over 104°F and does not go down after two hours of home treatment.
  • Persistent fever. Many viral illnesses, especially the flu, cause fevers of 102°F or higher for short periods of time (up to 12 to 24 hours).
  • If the fever stays high:
    • 102°F or higher for 2 full days
    • 101°F or higher for 3 full days
    • 100°F or higher for 4 full days

A fever is a symptom of a health problem and would be present along with other symptoms that mean you should call your doctor.

Although rare, there are many viral diseases that include fever as a typical symptom.

If you have a cough

  • If you have a fever along with other signs of a bacterial infection.
  • If you have a fever along with the following symptoms:
    • Shortness of breath and cough even when resting or you have been coughing up brown phlegm—you may have pneumonia. Call your doctor right away. This may be serious especially if you are over 65 or are in poor health.
    • Have been coughing up gray-yellow phlegm and/or have been wheezing—you may have an infection in your airways (bronchitis).
    • Pain over eyes or cheekbone may indicate sinusitis or sinus infection.
    • Painful or burning urination could mean a urinary tract infection
    • Abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting could mean flu, gastroenteritis, appendicitis or food poisoning

If you have a very bad headache

  • Along with a very stiff neck or pain when you bend your head forward, nausea or vomiting, bright light bothers you, you’re drowsy or confused — you may have encephalitis or meningitis. Call your doctor right away.
  • And you think you may have the flu. Symptoms would be one or more of the following: headache, body aches, cough, runny nose, sore throat.

If you spent most of the day in the sun or in very hot conditions

  • Fever over 103°F with dry skin, even under the armpits could mean possible heat stroke. Exposure to the heat may have caused your temperature to go up. Most of the time it will return to normal after you have rested for an hour or so in a cool room. Drink plenty of fluids and call your doctor at once if your body temperature keeps going up.

Fever in Newborns and Children

Fever in newborns can be serious and should not be ignored.

Fever – Myths Versus Facts

Many parents have false beliefs (myths) about fever. They think fever will hurt their child. They worry and lose sleep when their child has a fever. This is called fever phobia. In fact, fevers are harmless and often helpful. Let these facts help you better understand fever.

MYTH. My child feels warm, so she has a fever.

FACT. Children can feel warm for a many reasons. Examples are playing hard, crying, getting out of a warm bed or hot weather. They are “giving off heat.” Their skin temperature should return to normal in about 20 minutes. About 80% of children who act sick and feel warm do have a fever. If you want to be sure, take the temperature. These are the cutoffs for fever using different types of thermometers:

MYTH. All fevers are bad for children.

FACT. Fevers turn on the body’s immune system. They help the body fight infection. Normal fevers between 100° and 104° F (37.8° – 40° C) are good for sick children.

MYTH. Fevers above 104° F (40° C) are dangerous. They can cause brain damage.

FACT. Fevers with infections don’t cause brain damage. Only temperatures above 108° F (42° C) can cause brain damage. It’s very rare for the body temperature to climb this high. It only happens if the air temperature is very high. An example is a child left in a closed car during hot weather.

MYTH. Anyone can have a seizure triggered by fever.

FACT. Only 4% of children can have a seizure with fever.

MYTH. Seizures with fever are harmful.

FACT. These seizures are scary to watch, but they stop within 5 minutes. They don’t cause any permanent harm. They don’t increase the risk for speech delays, learning problems, or seizures without fever.

MYTH. All fevers need to be treated with fever medicine.

FACT. Fevers only need to be treated if they cause discomfort (makes your child feel bad). Most fevers don’t cause discomfort until they go above 102° or 103° F (39° or 39.5° C).

MYTH. Without treatment, fevers will keep going higher.

FACT. Wrong, because the brain knows when the body is too hot. Most fevers from infection don’t go above 103° or 104° F (39.5°- 40° C). They rarely go to 105° or 106° F (40.6° or 41.1° C). While these are “high” fevers, they also are harmless ones.

MYTH. With treatment, fevers should come down to normal.

FACT. With treatment, most fevers come down 2° or 3° F (1° or 1.5° C).

MYTH. If you can’t “break the fever”, the cause is serious.

FACT. Fevers that don’t come down to normal can be caused by viruses or bacteria. The response to fever medicines tells us nothing about the cause of the infection.

MYTH. Once the fever comes down with medicines, it should stay down.

FACT. It’s normal for fevers with most viral infections to last for 2 or 3 days. When the fever medicine wears off, the fever will come back. It may need to be treated again. The fever will go away and not return once the body overpowers the virus. Most often, this is day 3 or 4.

MYTH. If the fever is high, the cause is serious.

FACT. If the fever is high, the cause may or may not be serious. If your child looks very sick, the cause is more likely to be serious.

MYTH. The exact number of the temperature is very important.

FACT. How your child looks and acts is what’s important. The exact temperature number is not.

MYTH. Oral temperatures between 98.7° and 100° F (37.1° to 37.8° C) are low-grade fevers.

FACT. These temperatures are normal. The body’s normal temperature changes throughout the day. It peaks in the late afternoon and evening. A true low-grade fever is 100° F to 102° F (37.8° – 39° C) .

SUMMARY. Keep in mind that fever is fighting off your child’s infection. Fever is one of the good guys.

Seattle Children’s Urgent Care Locations

If your child’s illness or injury is life-threatening, call 911.

Last Reviewed: 02/01/2020

Last Revised: 03/14/2019

Copyright 2000-2019 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.

How can I tell whether my child has a fever?

Kiss or touch your child’s forehead. If you think he feels hotter than normal, you’re probably right.

A fever is usually a sign that the body is waging a war against infection. Taking your child’s temperature can confirm your suspicions and help you and your child’s doctor figure out the best way to get your child back on the road to health.

Most doctors – and the American Academy of Pediatrics – agree that a normal body temperature for a healthy child is between 97 and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (36 to 38 degrees Celsius). If your child’s temperature is above this range, he has a fever.

How can I tell if my child’s fever is serious?

A temperature reading isn’t the only indication of whether a fever is serious.

Behavior is a factor: A high fever that doesn’t stop your child from playing and eating normally may not be cause for alarm.

Activity is a factor: Children are hotter if they’ve been running around than when they wake up from a nap.

Keep in mind that everyone’s temperature rises in the late afternoon and early evening and falls between midnight and early morning. This natural cycle of our internal thermostat explains why doctors get most of their phone calls about fever in the late afternoon and early evening.

Learn your options for taking an older child’s temperature, including orally and under the arm.

When should I call the doctor?

You’re the best judge of whether your child is really ill – so do call if you’re worried, no matter what his temperature is. Common guidelines for calling the doctor when fever is involved include the following. (For more specific advice about when to call, ask your child’s doctor.)

General guidelines

The most important thing is how your child looks and acts.

If he appears well and is taking fluids, there’s no need to call the doctor unless the fever persists for more than 24 hours or is very high. Ask your doctor for additional guidance: For example, the doctor may suggest calling right away if your child’s fever reaches 104 degrees, regardless of symptoms.

Additional guidelines

The AAP suggests calling the doctor if your child has a temperature of 103 degrees F (39.4 degrees C) or higher and has symptoms such as loss of appetite, cough, an earache, unusual fussiness or sleepiness, or vomiting or diarrhea.

Also call the doctor if:

  • Your child is noticeably pale or flushed, or is excreting less urine.
  • You notice an unexplained rash, which could indicate a more serious problem when coupled with a fever. Small, purple-red spots that don’t turn white or paler when you press on them, or large purple blotches, can signal a very serious bacterial infection.
  • Your child has difficulty breathing (working harder to breathe or breathing faster than usual) even after you clear his nose with a bulb syringe. This could indicate pneumonia.

What will the doctor do?

If your child is reasonably alert and taking fluids and has no other symptoms that suggest a serious illness, the doctor may advise simply waiting 24 hours before bringing him in. Because fever is often the first symptom of an illness, a doctor may not find anything significant if your child is examined too early.

Depending on how uncomfortable your child is, the doctor may suggest giving him children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen to bring down the fever.

If your child has symptoms that suggest a serious illness or infection, to the doctor will instruct you to bring him in to be evaluated, either to her office (if you call during working hours) or to an emergency room.

If fever is a defense against infection, is it really a good idea to try to bring it down?

Since fever is part of the body’s defense against bacteria and viruses, some researchers suggest that an elevated temperature may help the body fight infections more effectively. (Bacteria and viruses prefer an environment that’s around 98.6 degrees F/37 degrees C.) A fever also tells the body to make more white blood cells and antibodies to fight the infection.

On the other hand, if your child’s temperature is too high, he’ll be too uncomfortable to eat, drink, or sleep, making it harder for him to get better.

If your child’s fever isn’t affecting his behavior, you don’t need to give him anything to lower it. Offer plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration, and don’t overdress him or bundle him up when he’s sleeping.

If your child’s body temperature is higher than normal because of extra clothes, a scorching day, or a lot of active play, help him cool down by taking off a few of his layers and encouraging him to rest or play quietly in a cool spot.

Which fever-reducing medicines are safe for my child?

You can use children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen to bring down your child’s temperature.

Be very careful when administering medicine to your child. His weight will determine the right dose. Always use the measuring device that comes with the medicine or an oral syringe to give your child exactly the right amount.

Don’t give fever-reducing medicine more often than is recommended. The directions will probably say that you can give acetaminophen every four hours (up to a maximum of five times per day) and ibuprofen every six hours (up to a maximum of four times per day).

Never give your child aspirin. Aspirin can make a child more susceptible to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal disorder.

A final word of caution: Most doctors don’t recommend over-the-counter cough and cold preparations for young children, but if your child is taking a prescription remedy, talk with the doctor before giving your child any other medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Cough and cold remedies may already contain these products, so you risk giving your child too much medicine.

Are there other ways to bring my child’s fever down?

You can try to reduce your child’s fever by sponging him down with tepid (lukewarm, not cold) water or giving him a lukewarm bath.

Never try to reduce a fever by sponging down your child with rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol can be absorbed into your child’s bloodstream through the skin. It can also cool him too quickly, which can actually raise his temperature.

What should I do if my child has a seizure from his high fever?

Fevers can sometimes cause febrile seizures in babies and young children. They’re most common in children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years.

A child having this type of seizure may roll his eyes, drool, or vomit. His limbs may become stiff and his body may twitch or jerk. In most cases, the seizures are harmless, but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying if your child’s having one.

Read more about febrile seizures and how to handle them.

Why does my child’s fever keep coming back?

Fever-reducing medicines bring down body temperature temporarily. They don’t affect the bug that’s producing the infection, so your child may run a fever until his body is clear of the infection. This can take at least two or three days.

Some infections, such as influenza (the flu), can last from five to seven days. If your child has been treated with antibiotics to fight a bacterial infection, it may take 48 hours for his temperature to fall.

My child has a fever and no other symptoms. What’s wrong?

When a child has a fever that isn’t accompanied by a runny nose, a cough, vomiting, or diarrhea, figuring out what’s wrong can be difficult.

There are many viral infections that can cause a fever without any other symptoms. Some, such as roseola, cause three days of very high fever followed by a light pink rash on the trunk.

More serious infections, such as meningitis, urinary tract infections, or bacteremia (bacteria in the bloodstream), may also trigger a high fever without any other specific symptoms. If your child has a persistent (longer than 24 hours) fever of 102.2 degrees F (39 degrees C) or higher, call the doctor, whether or not he has other symptoms.

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