When you’re in the middle of a fever, you might feel as though there’s no way you’ll ever recover. And that’s for good reason. Fevers have a nasty habit of ravaging your whole body and making you feel miserable from head to toe.
But do you really need to be worried that your overall health is in danger?
Why fevers happen
Fevers are an unfortunate but very necessary part of your immune system’s response to an infection.
You may also experience a fever if you:
- Are taking certain medications, such as antibiotics
- Suffer a heat illness
- Have cancer
- Have an autoimmune disease
Childhood vaccines are also known to trigger fevers in young children. If you live with drug addiction, you may be at a higher risk for feverish episodes, as well.
The first sign of a fever is a temporary rise in your body temperature from 98.6°F to 100°F or higher. In addition to a higher reading on your thermometer, you may also notice:
- Chills or shivering
- Muscle and body aches
- Loss of appetite
Because you’re not feeling your best, you’re also at risk for dehydration. Be sure to get plenty of fluids to help your body regulate your temperature and fight off the infection.
When fevers are dangerous
Fortunately, most fevers aren’t dangerous and break on their own with proper treatment. However, there are a few circumstances where a fever can cross a line and become dangerous. Left unmanaged, fevers have the potential to cause other potentially serious symptoms, such as convulsions, confusion, and/or seizures, especially in younger children.
Here are a few rules of thumb to follow when deciding whether or not a fever needs medical attention.
Fevers in infants and toddlers
We’re most concerned about fevers in infants and toddlers because their immune systems haven’t fully matured. Call us if your baby is:
- Younger than 3 months and has a temperature of 100.4°F or higher
- Between 3-6 months and has a temperature of 102°F or higher
- Between 7-24 months and has a temperature of higher than 102°F that lasts more than a day
It’s also important to pay attention to any other symptoms, including irritability, sluggishness, and discomfort. This information can tell us how severe the fever is and alert us to the possible underlying cause.
Fevers in children
As your child grows, their immune system continues to mature, and fevers become easier to handle. A good place to start is by checking for responsiveness. If your child has a fever but can still make eye contact with you, respond to your voice and facial expressions, and even continue playing, there’s likely no cause for alarm.
Bring your child to our urgent care facility if they’re:
- Experiencing seizures
- Still feverish after three days
If your child has a fever after being left in a hot car, seek emergency medical attention. Additionally, if your child has a known immune system problem or preexisting illness, you should take even the mildest fever seriously.
Fevers in adults
Just because you’re older doesn’t mean a fever can’t become a serious problem. Get help for a fever if you have a temperature higher than 103°F and any of these signs or symptoms:
- Severe headache
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Stiff neck
- Pain when bending your head forward
- Trouble breathing or chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Pain when urinating
Convulsions or seizures are cause for serious concern and require prompt emergency treatment. It’s also important that you get treatment for fever if you’re pregnant or have an immune system problem.
What to do when you have a fever
If you don’t have any other risk factors or health conditions, low-grade fevers (fevers below 102°F) don’t usually require treatment. Rest and plenty of fluids are enough to help your body fight off the infection.
Fevers that spike over 102°F, however, may require treatment. Most often, we recommend over-the-counter fever reducers, such as Tylenol or ibuprofen. If your fever is severe, we may prescribe other medications to address the underlying cause.
Children and babies under 2 months old may need to be admitted to the hospital for testing and treatment. Usually, we recommend a course of IV medication and diligent monitoring until the fever breaks and the infection subsides.
Worried about a fever? Don’t spend another day toughing it out. Walk into any of our three conveniently located offices or give us a call to talk to our experienced staff.