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Fever in Adults Treatments

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 27, 2020

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

Also seek emergency medical help for any of the following:

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

 

1. Take Temperature

  • Temperature can be taken orally, rectally, or under the armpit.
  • A person is typically considered feverish if oral temperature is above 100 F (37.8 C) or rectal temperature is above 99.5 F (37.5 C). Temperatures measured under the armpit are not considered as accurate and can be as much as 1 degree F lower than an oral measurement.
  • A temperature above normal but below 100.4 F (38 C) is sometimes considered a low-grade or mild fever. It may mean 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 102 or higher:

  • Give an over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) as directed on the label. Check with your doctor first if you have any medical conditions or take other medicines. 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, 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 3 days or gets worse.