Q&A: Fever

Author: Nathan Kiskila, MD

Question: Dr. Kiskila, what is a fever?

Answer: A fever is when your body temperature is higher than your normal average. A fever is your body’s natural response to fighting off an infection or illness. Normal body temperature is about 98.6°F, but it can fluctuate. It’s typically lower in the morning and higher in the evening. It can be higher too for women during menstrual cycles and when someone is exercising.. Most medical providers constitute a fever as either 100°F or 100.4°F. Infants and young children normally have slightly higher body temperature than older children and adults. 

Question: What are the symptoms of a fever?

Answer: When your body temperature rises above normalcy, it can be a sign that your immune system has been activated to fight off an illness or infection. In addition to an elevated temperature, a person may experience chills, feeling cold, body aches, headaches, faster heart beats, sweating, flushed complexion or hot skin. Fevers in smaller children and babies may also include earache or pulling on ears, excessive fussiness, decreased urination or loss of appetite. 

Question: What are the most common causes of a fever?

Answer: A fever has many causes and can be a symptom of almost any illness. Common conditions that can cause someone to have a fever are: bacterial or viral infection, UTIs, GI infections and skin infections. Some people may also develop a fever due to vaccinations and autoimmune disorders.

Question: How can I break a fever?

Answer: Make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids and watching for signs of dehydration. The most common way to get rid of a fever is to use over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. 

Question: When should I see a doctor or go to the Emergency Room?

Answer: In adults, fevers less than 103° typically aren’t dangerous and aren’t too much cause for concern. If your fever rises above 103°, make a call or see your medical provider for treatment and advice. In children if their fever lasts more than five days, fever is higher than 104°, they have problems urinating or breathing, and they can’t break the fever, contact their doctor. If you have a fever along with any of the following symptoms, go to your nearest ER or call 9-1-1:

  • Pain or tenderness in your abdomen
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Stiff neck or severe headache
  • Difficulty breathing, difficulty waking or altered speech

Question: What are the possible complications or risks for not treating a fever?

Answer: Untreated fevers above 105.8° can be dangerous. If your body temperature reaches this level, your organs will begin to malfunction and will eventually gaily. Even moderate fevers can be dangerous for adults with lunch or heart disorders because fever causes your breathing rate and heart rate to increase. Fevers can also worsen the mental state of people with dementia.

Question: Any last thoughts, Dr. Kiskila on fevers?

Answer: While a fever can be uncomfortable, it’s typically a sign that your immune system and body is working properly to fight off infection or illness. You don’t necessarily need to treat low-grade fevers, but you can take OTS relievers until they pass. If you or your child has a fever for a few days, it is good to call your healthcare provider for further evaluation and medical advice. While infections most often are the culprit for fevers, there could be other underlying conditions you’ll want to get checked out.

The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.

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