Skip to content

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Fever, Sweats, and Hot Flashes (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Fever


Blood product–associated fever

Suspected febrile reactions can be minimized by the use of leukocyte-depleted or irradiated blood products, when clinically appropriate. Common clinical practice includes premedication with acetaminophen and diphenhydramine.[8]

Nonspecific Interventions for Palliation of Fever

Along with treatment of the underlying cause, comfort measures are helpful in alleviating the distress that accompanies fever, chills, and sweats. During febrile episodes, increasing a patient's fluid intake, removing excess clothing and linens, and tepid water bathing/sponging may provide relief. Results of a pediatric randomized placebo-controlled trial of sponging with ice water, isopropyl alcohol, or tepid water, with or without acetaminophen, demonstrated that all combinations enhanced fever control. Comfort was greatest in children receiving a placebo or sponging, followed by those who received acetaminophen combined with tepid-water sponging. Sponging with either ice water or isopropyl alcohol, with or without acetaminophen, resulted in the greatest discomfort.[15] During periods of chills, replacing wet blankets with warm, dry blankets, keeping patients out of drafts, and adjusting ambient room temperature may also improve patient comfort.

Symptomatic relief of persistent or intermittent fevers can be aided by the use of NSAIDs (e.g., naproxen) or acetaminophen.[15] Aspirin may also be effective in reducing fever but should be used with caution in patients with Hodgkin lymphoma and cancer patients at risk for thrombocytopenia. Because of the associated risk of Reye syndrome, aspirin is not recommended in patients with fever.[4]


  1. Boulant JA: Thermoregulation. In: Machowiak PA, ed.: Fever: Basic Mechanisms and Management. New York, NY: Raven Press, 1991, pp 1-22.
  2. Dinarello CA, Bunn PA Jr: Fever. Semin Oncol 24 (3): 288-98, 1997.
  3. Young LS: Fever and septicemia. In: Rubin RH, Young LS, eds.: Clinical Approach to Infection in the Compromised Host. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Plenum Medical, 1988, pp 75-114.
  4. Cleary JF: Fever and sweats: including the immunocompromised hosts. In: Berger A, Portenoy RK, Weissman DE, eds.: Principles and Practice of Supportive Oncology. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott-Raven Publishers, 1998, pp 119-131.
  5. Knockaert DC, Vanneste LJ, Vanneste SB, et al.: Fever of unknown origin in the 1980s. An update of the diagnostic spectrum. Arch Intern Med 152 (1): 51-5, 1992.
  6. Mackowiak PA, LeMaistre CF: Drug fever: a critical appraisal of conventional concepts. An analysis of 51 episodes in two Dallas hospitals and 97 episodes reported in the English literature. Ann Intern Med 106 (5): 728-33, 1987.
  7. Mackowiak PA: Drug fever. In: Machowiak PA, ed.: Fever: Basic Mechanisms and Management. New York, NY: Raven Press, 1991, pp 255-265.
  8. Huh YO, Lichtiger B: Transfusion reactions in patients with cancer. Am J Clin Pathol 87 (2): 253-7, 1987.
  9. Marchetti O, Calandra T: Infections in neutropenic cancer patients. Lancet 359 (9308): 723-5, 2002.
  10. Quesada JR, Talpaz M, Rios A, et al.: Clinical toxicity of interferons in cancer patients: a review. J Clin Oncol 4 (2): 234-43, 1986.
  11. Pizzo PA: Management of fever in patients with cancer and treatment-induced neutropenia. N Engl J Med 328 (18): 1323-32, 1993.
  12. Karthaus M, Carratalà J, Jürgens H, et al.: New strategies in the treatment of infectious complications in haematology and oncology: is there a role for out-patient antibiotic treatment of febrile neutropenia? Chemotherapy 44 (6): 427-35, 1998 Nov-Dec.
  13. Klastersky J, Paesmans M, Rubenstein EB, et al.: The Multinational Association for Supportive Care in Cancer risk index: A multinational scoring system for identifying low-risk febrile neutropenic cancer patients. J Clin Oncol 18 (16): 3038-51, 2000.
  14. Talcott JA, Siegel RD, Finberg R, et al.: Risk assessment in cancer patients with fever and neutropenia: a prospective, two-center validation of a prediction rule. J Clin Oncol 10 (2): 316-22, 1992.
  15. Steele RW, Tanaka PT, Lara RP, et al.: Evaluation of sponging and of oral antipyretic therapy to reduce fever. J Pediatr 77 (5): 824-9, 1970.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: September 04, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Real Cancer Perspectives
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
what is your cancer risk
colorectal cancer treatment advances
breast cancer overview slideshow
prostate cancer overview
lung cancer overview slideshow
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
Actor Michael Douglas