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Do You Know When to Seek Medical Attention for a Fever?

Posted on Wed, Aug 10, 2016

Do You Know When to Seek Medical Attention for a Fever?It’s 2 a.m. and your toddler wakes up for the second time tonight complaining of a stomach ache. You reach down to kiss her forehead and notice that she’s burning up. What do you do? No matter your scenario, dealing with a high fever (especially in a child) can be scary and confusing. Fevers, also known as Pyrexia, are very common. They’re the body’s natural reaction to fighting off an illness. While many cases don’t necessarily require a trip to the doctor, it’s important to know when to seek medical attention for a fever.

What is a Fever?

A normal body temperature is 98.6 F although factors such as menstrual cycles or heavy exercising can affect a “normal” body temperature. When your body experiences an increased body temperature, that means it’s on the defense against some sort of infection or illness. As defined by the Mayo Clinic, a fever occurs when an area in your brain called the hypothalamus — also known as your body's "thermostat" — shifts the set point of your normal body temperature upward.

What Causes a Fever

Sometimes the cause of a fever cannot be identified, but a few common reasons include:
  • virus
  • bacterial infection
  • heat exhaustion
  • extreme sunburn
  • certain inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • medication reactions

When to Seek Medical Attention for a Fever in Adults?

We’ve all experienced symptoms of a fever: the fatigue, the chills, the body aches, night sweats… the list is exhausting. Sometimes it’s tough to tell when to seek medical attention for a fever and when to just “tough it out.” But for adults, a temperature taken orally that is higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (101 degrees or higher for ear or rectal temperatures) is considered a fever. For adults, usually an over the counter medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, will help to lower a high fever. But if the fever elevates to 103 degrees Fahrenheit, lasts longer than three days or is accompanied by other symptoms such as sore throat, confusion, sharp stomach pain or severe headache, it’s time to take a trip to urgent care.

When to Seek Medical Attention for a Fever During Pregnancy?

Mild fevers that last only a short time usually are not a concern but a high fever during early pregnancy could be dangerous for a baby’s fragile development. Expecting mothers should take note of any additional symptoms including shortness of breath, back pain, chills, abdominal pain or neck stiffness and contact their doctor for proper treatment right away.

When to Seek Medical Attention for a Fever in Children?

No matter how careful you are, every child will eventually experience a fever at some point. For the purpose of this section, we’ll define child as 3 months to 3 years of age or up. A fever can't always be detected by feeling your child's forehead. Similar to adults, a fever is defined as 100.4 F. But if your child’s behavior is fairly normal (eating, drinking, sleeping, playing) and has a low-grade fever (102.5 F or less) lasting less than five days, you don’t need to be too concerned. Now for the important question: When should you seek medical attention for a fever in your child?
  • Your child’s fever lasts more than five days.
  • The fever elevates to 104 F.
  • Fever reducers are not helping.
  • The child has signs of dehydration.
  • You’re concerned.
  • Your infant, younger than 3 months of age, develops a fever.

When to Seek Medical Attention for a Fever in Infants?

Infants are much more sensitive to high body temperature and fevers have to be taken very seriously. If your infant is younger than three months, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises a trip to the doctor for temperatures of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The best way to get an accurate temperature reading for infants is with a rectal thermometer. For older children, under arm, oral or tympanic thermometers are accurate and easy to use.

Fever Treatment at eMedical Urgent Care

Never hesitate to seek medical attention for a fever if you are concerned. When your child becomes ill, choosing the right medical provider is important; eMedical Urgent Care makes it easy to get the help you need, from pediatric health services to treating sinus infections in adults. Call to learn more about our services in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, (908) 464-6700, and Middletown, New Jersey, (732) 957-0707.

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