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Fever in Adults Treatments

Call 911 if the person is:

  • Unresponsive
  • Wheezing or has difficulty breathing
  • Appearing blue in the lips
  • Having convulsions or seizures
  • Speaking in a confused or altered way

  • Unresponsive
  • Wheezing or has difficulty breathing
  • Appearing blue in the lips
  • Having convulsions or seizures
  • Speaking in a confused or altered way

Also seek emergency medical help for any of the following:

  • A fever combined with a stiff neck or headache
  • Temperature above 105º F
  • Sudden onset of rash

 

1. Take Temperature

  • Temperature can be taken orally, rectally, or under the armpit.
  • A person is considered feverish if oral temperature is above 100º F (37.8 C) or rectal temperature is above 100.7º F (38.2 C). Temperatures measured under the armpit are not considered as accurate and can be as much as 1º F lower than an oral measurement.
  • A temperature below 100.4º (38 C) is considered a low-grade or mild fever. It means that the body is responding to an infection.

2. Treat Fever, if Necessary

No treatment is necessary for a mild fever unless the person is uncomfortable. If the fever is 102º or higher:

  • Give an over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) as directed on the label. Warning: Do NOT give aspirin to anyone age 18 or younger unless directed to do so by a doctor.
  • Bathing or sponging in lukewarm water may bring the temperature down. Do not use cold water or alcohol.
  • Have the person wear light clothing and use a light cover or sheet -- overdressing can make body temperature go up. If the person gets chills, use an extra blanket until they go away.

3. Give Liquids

  • Have the person drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

4. When to Contact a Doctor

Seek medical help immediately if the person has:

  • A history of serious illness such as AIDS, heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, or if the person is taking immunosuppressant drugs
  • A high fever that doesn't respond to fever-reducing medicine
  • Been exposed to extremely hot weather and feels hot but is not sweating
  • A stiff neck, is confused, or has trouble staying awake
  • Severe pain in the lower abdomen
  • Severe stomach pain, vomits repeatedly, or has severe diarrhea
  • Skin rashes, blisters, or a red streak on an arm or leg
  • A severe sore throat, severe swelling of the throat, or a persistent earache
  • Pain with urination, back pain, or shaking chills.
  • A severe cough, coughs up blood, or has trouble breathing

5. Follow Up

Contact a doctor if the high body temperature lasts for more than three days or gets worse.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 25, 2013

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