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When to Worry About a Fever

When to Worry About a Fever

You’re hot and sweaty. You’re weak, tired, and just feel lousy. You shiver with chills and before you know it, you’re sweating again. A quick temperature check confirms it – you’ve got a fever. Should you worry?

Fevers are a sign that your body’s immune system is working to fight off an infection, such as a cold, sinus infection, or the flu. While fevers can make you feel miserable, they’re not always a bad thing. In fact, the temporary rise in body temperature makes it harder for germs to continue growing.

However, when a fever is too high it can be dangerous and may require immediate medical care. Keep reading to learn when a fever is cause for concern, symptoms to watch for, and ways to reduce a fever.

When is a fever too high for a child?

Seek medical care as soon as possible if your child is:

  • Younger than three months old and has a rectal temperature of 100.4°F or higher
  • 3-6 months old and has a rectal temperature above 102°F (or a lower temperature but is acting unusually irritable or sluggish)
  • 7-24 months old and has a rectal temperature above 102°F that lasts longer than one day (do not delay if your child has a cough, runny nose, sore throat, diarrhea, etc.)
  • Older than 24 months and has a rectal or oral temperature above 102°F for 2-3 days (combined with other illness symptoms)

Like adults, children with a high fever will be warm or hot to the touch and may shiver, sweat, or have flushed red cheeks. However, you should seek care immediately if your child has a high fever and any of the below symptoms:

  • Inconsolable crying or crying more than usual
  • Unusually sleepy or hard to awaken
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Lack of urination or tears
  • Sudden rash
  • Little to no appetite
  • Vomiting

To help reduce your child’s fever, resist the urge to bundle them in extra clothes or blankets, even if they have chills. Dressing them in extra layers can cause their temperature to rise even higher. Instead, try one layer of lightweight clothing and one lightweight blanket for sleep. Your child’s room should be at a comfortable temperature, not too hot or stuffy.

Over-the-counter fever reducers (such as Tylenol or Advil, for children over 6 months) and lukewarm baths (not cold) can also provide relief. Ask your healthcare provider for more recommendations.

What’s a high fever for an adult?

A high fever (102°F or above) in an otherwise healthy adult may not be cause for alarm. However, there are circumstances when you should seek medical care for yourself.

For instance, a high fever accompanied by a cough, sore throat, or nasal congestion is a likely sign of an infection. If your temperature reaches 104°F, visit your nearest urgent care or visit your primary care physician.

You should seek treatment immediately if any of the following symptoms accompany your high fever:

  • Severe headache
  • Sudden rash
  • Neck pain
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Mental confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Painful urination
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions or seizures

Like young children, adults who are immunocompromised, have chronic conditions (such as diabetes, organ transplants, heart disease, or cancer), or have recently completed treatment are at greater risk for complications from a high fever.

In addition to the fever-reducing tips listed above (such as keeping your room at a comfortable temperature and taking over-the-counter medications), you should also:

  • Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, which can make dehydration worse
  • Get plenty of sleep – your body is working hard to fight off the infection you have
  • Eat foods that are easily digestible (such as soup and crackers) and avoid dairy products

Should I go to urgent care for a fever?

Yes! An urgent care clinician will evaluate your symptoms and determine what’s causing your high fever. Once your provider has determined what’s causing your fever, they’ll provide a treatment plan to help you feel better.

Antibiotics are only prescribed if it’s determined that your fever is caused by a bacterial infection (like strep throat or a UTI), as antibiotics aren’t used for viral infections.

If you have life-threatening symptoms and require emergency care, head to your nearest ER immediately.

Visit vybe today

All vybe centers have licensed medical professionals with a wide range of healthcare knowledge. We offer an extensive list of urgent care services, including diagnosing and treating illnesses that may accompany or cause a fever.

Walk-in or schedule an appointment at your local vybe urgent care today.