What Is a Fever?

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Fever

Fevers can be puzzling and alarming, especially for parents whose young children have them. Though fevers can be a symptom of a more serious problem, they generally illustrate the body’s immune system at work. Over certain temperatures, depending on the person’s age, fevers can be dangerous, so use this guide to learn when to call a doctor.

What Is a Fever?

A fever is when the body’s temperature rises to a certain level of just over 100 F. Although fevers occur primarily as a response to bacterial and viral infections, excessive exposure to the sun, side effects of medication, and certain other health conditions can also cause fevers. The different stages of a fever are characterized by a variety of symptoms, including chills, aches, overheating, and sweating. For many, fevers are an uncomfortable accompaniment to an already bothersome illness. To the very young, however, fevers can be much more dangerous and warrant contacting a health professional.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • A body temperature of 100.5 F or higher, taken rectally, is considered to be a fever. Rectal thermometer readings are about one degree higher than a reading from an oral thermometer. When you’re talking to a doctor, don’t try to convert the readings to oral or rectal, says the Mayo Clinic. Just tell the doctor what the temperature is and specify how you measured it.
  • The body’s temperature fluctuates throughout the day, and can rise after exercise, or even when someone is wearing too many clothes. Body temperature tends to be lower in the morning.

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Fever Treatment

Fevers that aren’t a symptom of another illness can be monitored and treated at home with over-the-counter medication and plenty of fluids. Fevers typically last for a few days, at the most. However, additional treatment may be needed if the fever is symptomatic of another condition.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Mercury was once commonly used in thermometers because of its sensitivity to changes in temperature. But mercury poses health risks to children and adults, and it should no longer be used. Be wary of any thermometer containing a silver liquid.
  • Don’t give aspirin to children with fevers, as it could cause a potentially fatal condition called Reye’s syndrome. Speak to your child’s doctor about what over-the-counter medications they should take.
  • According to MedlinePlus, you should never submerge someone suffering from a fever in a bath of cold water. Although it might feel refreshing at first, the shivering it causes raises core body temperature, exacerbating the fever.

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