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Take the Fever 101 Quiz.

Every one of us has experienced the wave of chills and exhaustion that a fever causes. Fever usually occurs in response to an infection with a virus or bacteria (i.e. cold and strep throat) or in response to to disease (such as cancer). However, many other causes of fever are possible, including drugs, poisons, heat exposure, injuries or abnormalities to the brain, or disease of the endocrine  system(hormonal or glandular).

How well do you know your Fever symptoms, types and statistics? See how much you know below:

What Temperature Is a Fever?

Fevers vary by age and the method used to measure their value (oral vs. rectal).  For newborns up to 3 months of age any rectal temperature above 100.4 is considered a fever and is of significant concern.  For children 3 to 36 months a rectal temperature above 100.4  is considered a fever and those values above 102.2 are concerning.  In older children and adults an oral temperature of 100.0  or greater is considered a fever and those temparature at or above 103.1 are concerning.  A temperature greater than 106.7 is termed hyperpyrexia and related to severe infections or central nervous system bleeding.

Viral Fevers

Illnesses caused by viruses are among the most frequent causes of fever in adults. Symptoms can include a runny nose, sore throat, cough, hoarseness, and muscle aches. Viruses also may cause diarrhea, vomiting, or an upset stomach.

For the most part, these viral illnesses will improve simply with time. Antibiotics will not treat a viral infection. Symptoms can be treated using decongestants and anti-fever medications bought over the counter. If diarrhea or vomiting occurs, then the person needs to be encouraged to drink fluids. Gatorade or sports drinks will help replace lost electrolytes. If fluids are not staying down, then medical care should be sought. Viral illnesses can last as long as one to two weeks.

When to Call or See a Doctor (or When to Worry About a Fever)

A fever has many possible causes. Most commonly, a fever is part of a viral infection that will go away on its own. However, there are some reasons to be concerned or worried about a fever; do not hesitate to call or see a doctor for any high fevers; the following is a “when to be worried” list that contains   symptoms and signs that may indicate you should seek medical care.

Seek immediate medical care or call your healthcare professional for a fever and one or more of the below conditions exist:

  • If the temperature is 103.1 F (39.5 C) or greater in adults
  • If the temperature is 100.4 or greater in newborns up to 3 month of age
  • If the fever lasts several days or keeps coming back
  • Confusion or excessive sleepiness
  • Stiff neck
  • Severe headache
  • Sore throat, especially with difficulty swallowing or if the person is drooling
  • Rash
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe vomiting or diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in stool
  • Pain with urination
  • Red, hot, or swollen area of skin
  • Recent tick bite

People with serious medical illnesses, such as cancer or HIV and the elderly, may not show some or any of these warning signs. Mild symptoms with fever in this patient population should be discussed with the doctor to prevent them progressing into more serious infections or other conditions.

What Are Home Remedies for Fever in Adults?

People can make the diagnosis of fever at home by taking a person’s temperature with a thermometer, and there multiple ways to bring a fever down.

There are several ways to bring down (reduce) a fever. In general, a fever can be reduced with ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol and others). Both medications help control pain and reduce fever. Alternating doses of each will also work and prevent accidental overdose of one drug. At times, a combination of both acetaminophen and ibuprofen will be needed to stop the fever. Cool bath water or cool towels applied to a person’s skin may also help reduce fevers; cool fluids taken orally will also rehydrate and cool a person.