Although most people consider 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit a normal body temperature, it can vary from about 97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the Mayo Clinic, you have a fever when your temperature rises above your regular range. A temporary elevation is a sign that something out of the ordinary is going on in your body. Fever plays a key role in helping you fight off a number of infections and then goes away within a few days usually. While a fever may be uncomfortable for adults, it isn’t a cause for concern usually — unless it reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Learn the basics now so you’ll know how to react the next time a fever occurs.
Depending on what’s causing your fever, you may experience:
Loss of appetite
High fevers between 103 degrees Fahrenheit 106 degrees Fahrenheit may cause:
Normal body temperature fluctuates throughout the day. It’s lower in the morning and higher in the late afternoon and evening. Factors such as menstrual cycle and intense exercise can affect your regular temperature readings. Fever occurs when the hypothalamus in your brain, your body’s thermostat, shifts the set point of your normal body temperature upward. You may feel chilled and add layers of clothing or wrap up in a blanket. Or you might shiver, which generates more body heat and raises your temperature.
Elevated body temperature causes include:
Certain inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation of the lining of your joints
Some immunizations such as pneumococcal or diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccines
Sometimes, you can’t identify the cause of a fever. If you have a temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for more than three weeks and your doctor isn’t able to determine the source after extensive evaluation, he may diagnose you with fever of unknown origin.
When Adults Need Medical Care
Call your doctor if your:
Temperature is 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
Fever lasts more than three days
Seek immediate medical attention if any of these signs or symptoms accompanies a fever:
Extreme throat swelling
Unusual skin rash, especially if it worsens rapidly
Uncommon sensitivity to bright light
Stiff neck and pain when you bend your head forward
Difficulty breathing or chest pain
Extreme listlessness or irritability
Pain in your abdomen or when urinating
Muscle weakness or sensory changes
Any other unexplained signs or symptoms
Over-the-Counter and Prescription Treatments
For temperatures below 102 degrees Fahrenheit, don’t use fever-lowering drugs unless your doctor advises treatment. Because fever is your body’s method of killing off bacterial and viral infections, suppressing it too soon may prolong the disease process. It also may mask symptoms so determining the cause is harder.
If your fever is 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher and you’re uncomfortable, you may take an over-the-counter medication including Acetaminophen such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen such as Advil. Order these and other fever and pain relief brands online so you’ll have them on hand.
These medications reduce fever by telling your brain’s heat-regulating center to lower your elevated body temperature. You may alternate Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen doses. At times, you may need a combination of both to stop a fever. Call your doctor if your fever doesn’t respond to treatment, is 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher consistently, or lasts longer than three days.
Depending on the cause of your fever, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic, especially if he suspects a bacterial infection such as pneumonia or strep throat. For most minor viral illnesses, rest and plenty of fluids will help you feel better. Or your doctor may order an antiviral drug to treat certain viral infections.
Fever can cause fluid loss and dehydration, so Dr. Jeanne Galloway (see video below) recommends drinking plenty of clear liquids including herbal tea, broth, and water. Skip sweet drinks, which fuel the fever and make the infection grow even faster. Other natural relievers include tepid baths with lavender or vinegar. Activity can raise your body temperature, so rest to recover. Stay cool by dressing in light clothing, lowering the room temperature, and sleeping with just a sheet or light blanket.
Wash your hands often, especially after using the toilet, before eating, and after spending time in a crowd, on public transportation, and around sick people. To do a thorough cleaning, cover the front and back of each hand with soap and rinse completely under running water.
Carry hand sanitizer with you for times when you don’t have access to soap and water.
Try to avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes because these are the main ways that bacteria and viruses can enter your body and cause infections.
Avoid sharing cups, water bottles, and utensils that may contain infectious disease germs.
Cover your mouth when you cough and your nose when you sneeze. Whenever possible, also turn away from others to avoid passing germs along to them.