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Fever in Adults

by Cindy Schmidler

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Fever in Adults

A fever is a body temperature above 100.4°F. A normal oral temperature for a resting, healthy adult is about 98.6°F (37°C) (for someone over 70 normal temp is 96.8°F (36°C)). Your temperature can go up or down 1 to 2 degrees throughout the day. Fever is a sign of inflammation or infection and is a common symptom of illness. Fever is not a disease.

A fever is one way your body fights illness—your body temperature goes up to kill bacteria that cannot live at the higher temperatures. Although it may not be comfortable, a temperature of up to 102°F is generally good for you. Most healthy adults can tolerate a fever as high as 103°F to 104°F for short periods of time without having problems. Body temperatures usually return to normal with the illness goes away.

Ranges in Body Temperatures

A temperature above 100.4°F (38°C) indicates a fever, called pyrexia in medical terms.

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Stages of Fever

A fever can be divided into three stages.

  1. Onset is when the temperature first begins to go up. The increase in temperature can be slow or sudden, the person can have chills and feel cold and breathing and heart rate increase.
  2. During the course of the fever the temperature can go up and down in one of three patterns: continuous, intermittent or remittent. During this stage, the person has an increased heart and breathing rate and feels warm to the touch. The person may also look flushed, feel thirsty, lose their appetite, have a headache and feel weak and tired.
  3. During the subsiding stage the temperature returns to normal. It can return gradually or suddenly. As the body temperature returns to normal, the person usually sweats and may become dehydrated due to loss of fluid from sweating.

How to Take Your Temperature – Fever in Adults

Adults should take their temperature under the tongue. Taking a temperature under the armpit is not very accurate.

Mercury Thermometer

Digital Thermometers

Digital thermometers can also be used but they can be expensive to buy. They are easy to read, as they have a large digital display for numbers. Before using, make sure the thermometer is clean and turned on. Remove the thermometer once it beeps. Clean it before you put it away.

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How to Treat a Fever

When to Call Your Doctor

A fever is a symptom of a health problem and would be present along with other symptoms that mean you should call your doctor.

Although rare, there are many viral diseases that include fever as a typical symptom.

If you have a cough

If you have a very bad headache

If you have a sore throat

If you spent most of the day in the sun or in very hot conditions

Fever in Newborns

Fever in newborns can be serious and should not be ignored.

Fever in Young Children (Toddlers) 

Remedies for fever in children

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