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When to worry about a fever?

In Health, Healthcare, Medicine on August 22, 2013 at 3:09 pm
has-your-kid-got-a-fever
What is a fever? — A fever is a rise in body temperature that goes above a certain level. The level that is considered a fever depends on how you take the temperature. Here are the values that are considered a fever:
  • Oral (mouth) temperature above 100ºF (37.8ºC)
  • Armpit temperature above 99ºF (37.2ºC)
  • Ear temperature above 100.4ºF (38ºC) in rectal mode or 99.5ºF (37.5ºC) in oral mode
  • Forehead temperature above 100.4ºF (38ºC)
  • Rectal temperature above 100.4ºF (38ºC)

 

What is the best way to take my temperature? — Armpit, ear, and forehead temperatures are easier to measure than rectal or oral temperatures, but they are not as accurate.

Here is the right way to take an oral temperature:

  • Wait at least 30 minutes after you eat or drink anything hot or cold.
  • Wash the thermometer with cool water and soap. Then rinse it.
  • Place the tip of the thermometer under your tongue toward the back. Hold the thermometer with your lips, not your teeth.
  • Keep your lips closed around the thermometer. A glass thermometer takes about 3 minutes to work. Most digital thermometers take less than 1 minute.

 

The height of the temperature is less important than how sick you feel. If you think you have a fever and you feel sick, your doctor or nurse might want you to double-check by getting an oral or rectal temperature.

What causes fever? — The most common cause of fever in adults is infection. Common infections that can cause fever include:

  • A cold or the flu
  • An airway infection, such as bronchitis
  • A stomach bug

 

Most of these infections are not serious and get better on their own.

When should I see a doctor or nurse? — Call your doctor or nurse if you get a fever and you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Recently got back from a trip to Africa, Asia, or Latin America
  • Just got out of the hospital, or had surgery or another medical procedure
  • Get infections often
  • Are on chemotherapy – Call your doctor or nurse if your oral temperature goes above 100ºF (37.8ºC) for more than 1 hour. Also call if it goes above 101ºF (38.3ºC) even just 1 time.

 

You should also call if you have:

  • Fever that lasts several days or keeps coming back
  • A recent bite from an insect called a tick – Infections you can catch from tick bites can cause fever and other symptoms.
  • A serious health condition, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, lupus, or sickle cell anemia
  • Fever plus 1 or more of these symptoms:
  • Rash
  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe headache or neck pain
  • Seizure or confusion
  • Severe vomiting or diarrhea
  • Severe pain in the belly, back, or sides
  • Any other symptom that is unusual or worries you

 

Will I need tests? — Maybe. Your doctor or nurse will do an exam and talk with you about your symptoms. You might also have the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Chest X-ray or CT scan – These imaging tests create pictures of the inside of the body.

 

Your doctor or nurse will talk to you about any other tests you might need.

Can I do anything on my own to feel better? — Yes. You can stay home, rest, and drink plenty of fluids. You can also take acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol) to relieve fever.

How are fevers treated? — That depends on the cause. Many people do not need treatment. If you do, treatments can include:

  • Antibiotics to fight the infection. But antibiotics only work on infections caused by bacteria, not infections caused by viruses. For example, antibiotics will NOT work on a cold.
  • Medicines, such as acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol) or ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin). These medicines can help bring down a fever. But they are not always necessary.

Source: Uptodate

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