Fever

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.

Step 2

Answering Questions

  • Is the person an infant (less than 1 year) or child?

  • Does your fever come and go and does your temperature stay between 97° and 102°F?

  • Have you had a fever for weeks, along with tiredness and a sore throat?

  • Do you have a fever between 101°F and 103°F?

  • Do you have a sore throat and headache, but no cough?

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

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

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

  • Have you lost weight unintentionally, and do you have a fever that comes and goes, night sweats (drenching your bed sheets or bedclothes), or swollen lymph nodes?

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

  • Do you have a rash that’s red, tender and warm, or a red streak on your arm or leg?

  • Do you have an earache?

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

  • Have you recently started taking a new medicine?

  • Is your temperature consistently above 103°?

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

  • Are you experiencing pain or burning when you urinate, or do you have back or abdominal pain, along with nausea/vomiting?

  • Do you have a severe headache, neck stiffness, drowsiness, and vomiting, and are your eyes sensitive to light or are your ears sensitive to sound?

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

Step 3

Possible Causes

  • See Fever in Infants and Children
  • Self Care

    Take anti-fever medicines, such as acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen to reduce the fever.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have MONONUCLEOSIS (also known as MONO), which is a viral infection that can lead to swollen glands in your neck and a swollen/tender spleen (an organ in your abdomen).


    Self Care

    See your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

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


    Self Care

    Get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and take cold and fever-reducing medicines, such as acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen. 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.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have a COLD or the FLU.


    Self Care

    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.


  • Diagnosis

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


    Self Care

    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 (e.g., bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast). 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.


  • Diagnosis

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


    Self Care

    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 (higher than 101.5°F) or are coughing up blood, see your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

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


    Self Care

    See your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have a severe medical problem, such as APPENDICITIS, DIVERTICULITIS, PANCREATITIS, HEPATITIS, or COLITIS. Each of these involve infection and/or inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract or organs in your abdomen.


    Self Care

    EMERGENCY

    See your doctor, go to the closest emergency room right away, or call an ambulance.


  • Diagnosis

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


    Self Care

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


  • Diagnosis

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


    Self Care

    While these will likely resolve on their own, some of the infections may require treatment. See your doctor if your ear pain is severe, if your symptoms worsen, or if symptoms fail to improve within 48 hours of starting.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have HEAT EXHAUSTION or HEAT STROKE.


    Self Care

    Drink cool liquids and rest in a cool location. Lay down and elevate your legs above the level of your heart. You can also get into a cold bath or even ice water bath. Recheck your temperature often until it has returned to normal. If your temperature goes higher, have someone take you to the emergency room.


  • Diagnosis

    Your fever may be a side effect of your MEDICINE.


    Self Care

    Call your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have PNEUMONIA or PULMONARY EMBOLUS.


    Self Care

    See your doctor right away, go to the closest emergency room, or call an ambulance.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have PYELONEPHRITIS, a potentially serious kidney infection.


    Self Care

    See your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

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


    Self Care

    See your doctor, go to the closest emergency room right away, or call an ambulance.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have HEAT STROKE or HEAT EXHAUSTION.


    Self Care

    Get out of the sun and go somewhere shady or with air conditioning. Have someone take you to the closest emergency room right away or call an ambulance.


  • Self Care

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


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