A fever is a higher-than-normal body temperature and
is a part of our body's natural response to infection. The average normal body
temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When your body's temperature rises a few
degrees above normal, it is a sign that your body is fighting infection and is
generally not cause for concern. In these cases, a fever is the response you
want your body to have since it means that it is healthy enough to fight
infection. For this reason it is not always a good idea to try and bring a fever
down too quickly. However, a fever that goes above 102 degrees Fahrenheit is a
cause for concern, and treatment should be initiated.
Aside from an elevated temperature, chills, and aches,
a lack of energy and a flush complexion are common symptoms experienced by
people with a fever.
What causes a fever?
A fever has many causes and can be a symptom of almost any illness. Among
the most common are:
However, if you or your loved are experiencing a
higher-than-normal body temperature and no other symptoms of illness, do not
assume something is wrong. A person's body temperature changes throughout the
day and varies with many normal activities and emotions. For example, stress,
excitement, wearing extra clothing, food, certain medications, a woman's
menstrual cycle and exercise can all raise body temperature. Also, children tend
to have a slightly higher body temperature than adults.
What is the best way to measure body temperature?
The best way to measure body temperature is using a thermometer inserted
orally, rectally, axillary (under the arm), or by using a special instrument
commonly sold in stores that is inserted in the ear and measures the temperature of the eardrum.
Can a fever be treated at home?
If your fever is mild (less than 101 degrees), then no medical treatment is
required. Simply make sure that you drink plenty of fluids no alcohol--and get
plenty of rest. For higher temperatures, there are many effective approaches to
getting your fever under control. The most common approaches include medications
such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. If you have a child under age 17
who has a fever, DO NOT give the child aspirin. Aspirin in children may cause
Reye's syndrome, a sometime fatal illness. Taking a lukewarm bath (around 98
degrees) may also help bring the body's temperature down.
When is a fever cause for concern?
If any of the following situations apply, call a doctor as soon as possible:
- A fever is accompanied by a stiff neck, confusion or irritability
- Any time a child under 6 months has a fever
- Whenever a child between the ages of 6 months and a year has a fever
that lasts beyond 24 hours.
- A fever remains above 103 degrees longer than 2 hours after home treatment.
- A fever lasting longer than 2 days.
Any fever in an adult that goes above 105 degrees Fahrenheit and does not come down with treatment is a life-threatening medical emergency and 9-1-1 should be called.
Hague R. Managing the child with a fever. Practitioner. 2015;259(1784):17-21, 2-3.
- Tess AV. Chapter 8. Fever. In: Henderson MC, Tierney LM, Jr., Smetana GW. eds. The Patient History: An Evidence-Based Approach to Differential Diagnosis. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2012. library.ccf.org
- NHS Choices. Fever in children.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 4/22/2014...#10880