2. How to Fight a Fever

Fever is one way the body fights an infection or illness. It helps speed up the body’s defense actions by increasing blood flow.

Normal body temperature ranges from 97°F to 99.5°F. Ways to take your temperature include using a digital or ear thermometer. Temperatures are more accurate when they are tested inside the body, such as by mouth or rectum. A rectal reading is 1°F higher than one taken by mouth. It is best not to use a glass mercury thermometer. If it breaks, droplets of toxic mercury can be released. Call the health department if this happens.

Body temperature changes throughout the day. It is usually lowest in the morning and highest in the late afternoon and evening. Other factors that can temporarily affect your temperature reading include:

  1. Wearing too much clothing (if you’re overdressed enough to raise your body temperature).

  2. Exercise.

  3. Hot, humid weather.

  4. Taking your temperature by mouth after you drink a hot liquid (e.g., tea).

  5. Hormones (increased progesterone levels raise body temperature, so women’s basal body temperature increases following ovulation).

If you’ve ruled out these factors and your temperature is higher than 99.5°F by mouth or ear or higher than 100.4°F by rectum, you have a fever.

Call a doctor if a fever:

  1. Occurs in a child less than 3 months old.

  2. Is 102.2°F and up to 104°F orally or 103.2°F and up to 105.2°F rectally in a child between 3 months and 3 years old.

  3. Exceeds 104°F in a person between 3 years old and 64 years old.

  4. Is 102°F or higher in a person age 65 or older or in a person whose immune system is lowered.

  5. Lasts longer than three days with no improvement.

  6. Occurs with other symptoms, like stiff neck, sore throat, listlessness, rash, cough or other discharge that is green, yellow, or bloody colored, ear or sinus pain, redness, swelling, and/or pain anywhere on the body.

To cool a fever:

  1. Drink plenty of liquids (e.g., fruit juice, water, etc.).

  2. Take a sponge bath with warm (about 70°F) water. (Don’t use rubbing alcohol.)

  3. Take the right dose of an over-the-counter medicine to reduce fever for your age every 3 or 4 hours. (Note: Don’t give aspirin to anyone under 19 years old, however, if a fever occurs with chicken pox or a flu-like illness. It’s been associated with Reye’s syndrome, a potentially fatal condition that is discussed in chapter 2, Major Medical Conditions: Prevention, Detection, and Treatment.)

  4. Rest.

  5. Don’t wear too many clothes or use too many blankets.

  6. Don’t do heavy exercise.

Chapter 1
  1. Fast Relief for Everyday Health Problems