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A fever is defined as a temperature 1° or more above the normal 98.6°. Minor infections may cause mild or short-term temperature elevations. Temperatures of 103° and above are considered high and can signal a potentially dangerous infection. Contact your doctor in case of a high fever or if a lower fever doesn't resolve with simple treatments.

SYMPTOMS DIAGNOSIS SELF-CARE
Begin Here

1. Is the person an infant or child?

See "Fever In Infants and Children."

No

2. Does your fever come and go and does your temperature stay between 97° and 102°?


No

Go to Question 8.*

Yes

3. Have you had a fever for weeks along with tiredness and a sore throat?


Yes

You may have MONONUCLEOSIS.

See your doctor.

No

4. Do you have a sore throat, a dry cough, tiredness, mild headaches or muscle aches?


Yes

You may have a COLD or FLU.

Get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. Over-the-counter- medicines may help relieve your symptoms. See your doctor if your symptoms become severe. Prevent the flu by getting the flu vaccine in the fall.

No

5. Do you have aches, chills, nausea, vomiting, cramps or watery diarrhea?


Yes

You may have GASTROENTERITIS, an intestinal infection commonly called the STOMACH FLU.

Get plenty of rest. Stop eating and drinking for a few hours to let your stomach settle. Ease back into eating gradually and start with bland foods. Take small, frequent sips of water or clear liquids to avoid dehydration. See your doctor if you have bloody diarrhea, if you've been vomiting for more than 2 days or if you're vomiting blood.

No

6. Are you short of breath and do you have a cough that produces yellow, green or tan mucus?


Yes

You may have BRONCHITIS, or a more serious infection, such as PNEUMONIA.

Get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and take an over-the-counter cough medicine. Bronchitis usually clears on its own in a few days. If your symptoms persist, if you have a high fever or are coughing up blood, see your doctor.

No

7. Have you lost weight unintentionally and do you have a fever that comes and goes, night sweats or swollen lymph nodes?


Yes

You may have a serious infection, such as TUBERCULOSIS or AIDS.

See your doctor right away.

No

*8. Do you have a fever between 101° and 103°?


No

Go to Question 15.**

Yes

9. Do you have a sore throat and headache?


Yes

You may have a bacterial infection, such as STREP THROAT.

Get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and treat yourself with cold and fever-reducing medicines. If you don't feel better in 48 hours, see your doctor. A quick test can determine whether you have strep throat. Antibiotics are effective in treating the bacteria that causes this infection.

No

10. Do you have stomach pain, nausea and/or vomiting?


Yes

You may have a severe medical problem, such as APPENDICITIS, DIVERTICULITIS, PANCREATITIS, HEPATITIS or COLITIS.

EMERGENCY
See your doctor or go to the emergency room right away.

No

11. Do you have a rash that's red, tender and warm or a red streak on your arm or leg?


Yes

You may have an infection of the skin or lymph system, such as CELLULITIS or LYMPHANGITIS.

Both conditions need to be treated with antibiotics. See your doctor right away.

No

12. Do you have an earache?


Yes

You may have a middle ear infection (OTITIS MEDIA) or an outer ear infection (SWIMMER'S EAR or OTITIS EXTERNA).

These infections could lead to complications if not treated. See your doctor right away.

No

13. Have you been outside under high temperatures and are you feeling nauseous or faint?


Yes

You may have HEAT EXHAUSTION.

Drink cool liquids and rest in a cool location. Lay down and elevate your legs slightly. Recheck your temperature often until it has returned to normal. If your temperature goes higher, have someone take you to the emergency room.

No

14. Have you recently started taking a new medicine?


Yes

Your fever may be a side effect of your MEDICINE.

Call your doctor.

No

**15. Is your temperature consistently above 103°?


No

Go to conclusion.***

Yes

16. Are you short of breath or are you coughing up mucus or blood?


Yes

You may have PNEUMONIA or PULMONARY EMBOLUS.

See your doctor right away.

No

17. Are you experiencing pain or burning when you urinate, or do you have back pain?


Yes

You may have PYELONEPHRITIS, a kidney infection.

See your doctor right away.

No

18. Do you have a severe headache, neck stiffness, drowsiness and vomiting, and are your eyes sensitive to light?


Yes

You may have MENINGITIS, an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.

EMERGENCY
See your doctor or go to the emergency room right away.

No

19. Have you been outside in extremely hot weather, and are you hot but not sweating, possibly feeling faint or having some confusion?


Yes

You may have HEATSTROKE.

EMERGENCY
Have someone take you to the emergency room right away. Get out of the sun and go somewhere shady or air-conditioned.

No

*** For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think the problem is serious, call your doctor right away.

This tool has been reviewed by doctors and is for general educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. The information in this tool should not be relied upon to make decisions about your health. Always consult your family doctor with questions about your individual condition(s) and/or circumstances. Source: American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Health & Medical Guide. Dallas: Word Publishing; 1996.

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