In many cases, one of the first signs of illness is a fever. A fever is simply the human body doing its part to fight off any infections. If you or someone in your care is feeling under the weather, you will need to first assess the symptoms and take your temperature. There are many symptoms that can help diagnose a fever, but the most accurate way is to check your temperature.
Once you diagnose a fever, you can begin fever treatment at home. Keep reading to learn our best tips to reduce fever symptoms for people of all ages.
How to Diagnose a Fever
The first step to treat a fever is to properly diagnose it by assessing your symptoms and checking your temperature. Every fever is different, you may experience different symptoms at varying severities. However, your overall comfort level and the severity of your symptoms can help determine the best way to reduce a fever.
Here are some of the most common symptoms you may experience if you have a fever:
- Feeling lightheaded or faint
- Body aches
- Loss of appetite
Note: If you have a rash along with a fever, you should speak with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to help you determine the root cause of your fever and rash.
Temperature Taking Guide
The best way to diagnose and begin to treat a fever is to take your body temperature. Typically, your baseline temperature will be around 98.6°F (37°C), although this may differ slightly from person to person. You can check your temperature using an oral, rectal, ear, forehead, or armpit thermometer.
You are considered to have a fever if your temperature reading from an oral, rectal, ear, or temporal artery (forehead) thermometer registers at 100.4°F (38°C). Temperature readings will be around 1°F or 1°C lower for armpit thermometers, so a fever would be any temperature over 99.4°F (37°C). If your body temperature is over 103°F or you are experiencing confusion, hallucinations or convulsions, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Note: All temperature readings in this article are taken using oral, rectal, ear, or forehead thermometers.
How to Treat a Fever
If a person is running a fever, there are many steps they can take for reducing a fever naturally. It’s important to be aware of the different guidelines for reducing fever in adults, babies, infants, or adolescents. Fevers that are left untreated can lead to serious health complications in younger children, elderly adults, and people with compromised or weakened immune systems.
In general, drinking lots of fluids and getting bed rest work great as fever treatments from home. Most fevers will simply need to run their course while you recover. It is helpful to keep track of your fever during the entire duration. If a fever lasts longer than two days, you should seek medical attention.
Treating a Fever in Infants and Toddlers
Fevers can be riskier in infants up to 3 months old, so they should be taken to see a doctor if they have a fever reading 100.4°F (38°C) or above from a rectal thermometer. Young infants with a fever should be taken to see a doctor even if they are not showing any other symptoms such as chills, sweating, or vomiting.
Home treatment can be an option to reduce fever in a baby if your child is 3 to 6 months old. For fevers up to 102°F (38.9°C) from a rectal thermometer, you should encourage your toddler to rest and drink lots of fluids like water or Pedialyte. Medication is not needed for children at this age. If your child is unusually irritable, uncomfortable, or exhausted, you should call your doctor for advice on fever and chills treatment.
If your child is 3 to 6 months old and has a fever above 102°F (38.9°C), call your doctor for professional medical advice. You may be able to give your child over the counter medications under your doctor’s supervision. In some cases, your doctor will recommend bringing your child in for an examination.
When your child is 6 to 24 months old, you can give them acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help reduce their fever. Do not give aspirin to your child when they are this age. If your child is not responding to the medication and their fever lasts longer than a day, you should consult your doctor.
Treating a Fever in Kids and Adolescents
Children between the 2 to 17 years old will generally be able to recover from fevers under 102°F (38.9°C) without any medications. Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids while they are ill in order to support their recovery. You can give your child medicine to reduce fever symptoms like headaches or body aches, but it is not necessary.
If your child’s temperature rises higher than 102°F (38.9°C), then you may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce fever symptoms and lower their temperature. You should consult your doctor for medical advice if your child continues to be irritable or uncomfortable or if their fever does not subside with the medication and lasts longer than three days.
Treating a Fever in Adults
Typically, adults who are 18 years of age or older will not need medication to reduce a fever that is under 102°F (38.9°C), but they may take acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen to deal with pain or discomfort. Getting bedrest and drinking plenty of fluids can help speed up their recovery. In most cases, adults will be able to recover in a few days without the need for medical attention.
Fevers that are above 102°F (38.9°C) should be watched more carefully. If you are feeling discomfort, take some acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin. Read the labels carefully and take the proper dose. Fevers that are accompanied by shortness of breath, stiff neck, severe headache, or other uncommon symptoms can be a sign of a more serious problem. Consult your doctor immediately if you are feeling any unusual symptoms or your fever lasts longer than three days.