A fever is an indication that the body is fighting off an infection or illness, and one occurs when the body temperature rises. Fevers usually last for only a few days and do not require medical treatment.
Our normal body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C). Anything above this temperature is considered a fever. Temperatures above 100.4 F (38 C) are considered a high fever.
Fever symptoms can include the following:
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
- General weakness
Low-grade fevers should not be treated with medication, as they enable your body to fight the infection and increase your immunity. If you have a low-grade fever, get plenty of rest and stay hydrated (drink at least 8 glasses of water a day).
If you have a high-grade fever (a temperature above 100.4°F), your doctor will usually recommend over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®). Based on the severity of the fever, your doctor may also prescribe additional medications or other diagnostic tests such as blood work or x-rays.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If your body temperature is above 103°F (39.4°C) get medical care immediately.
You should seek urgent care or emergency room care if you experience the following symptoms in addition to your fever:
- Prolonged headache
- Skin rash
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent vomiting
- Inability to hold down food or fluids
- Lack of urination
Causes & Prevention
Your normal temperature will vary throughout the day, but a consistently high temperature is an indication of a fever. A fever or an increase in temperature is caused by a virus, bacterium, and/or other underlying condition. A fever can also be a temporary side effect of certain medications or vaccinations.
You can prevent fevers caused by infections with good hygiene practices such as:
- Washing your hands regularly
- Keeping your work and home environment clean
- Avoiding the sharing of towels, cutlery, cups, etc.
- Getting an annual flu vaccine
- Coughing and sneezing into your sleeve