Health Conditions A-Z Infectious Diseases How To Break a Fever Fluids and rest are key fever treatments. By Karen Pallarito Karen Pallarito Twitter Karen is a senior editor at Health, where she produces health condition “explainers” backed by current science. health's editorial guidelines Updated on March 12, 2023 Medically reviewed by Femi Aremu, PharmD Medically reviewed by Femi Aremu, PharmD Femi Aremu, PharmD, is a Drug Information Pharmacist for Red Ventures and practiced in a COVID-19 clinic for the University of Chicago Medicine. learn more Share Tweet Pin Email Getty Images Breaking a fever may not be a quick and simple thing. When your body is fighting off an infection, it needs time to do so. But there are different things you can do to speed up the recovery process. Learn more about fevers, including how to break one and when to seek medical and emergency care. What Is a Fever? A fever is an increase in normal body temperature. An average body temperature can differ with each person and vary depending on certain factors, but it is typically around 98.6 degrees. A fever is not a disease on its own, but it's usually a symptom of an infection or illness your body is trying to fight off. Bacteria and viruses tend to thrive when the body is at its normal temperature. Thus, a fever can help fight infection by making it harder for those germs to survive. Fevers also activate your body's immune system. If you or someone you're taking care of has a fever, learn how to treat their symptoms at home and how to determine when you should seek advice from a healthcare provider. What Temperature Is Considered a Fever? Adults are considered to have a fever when their temperature is 99 to 99.5 degrees and above. For children, the temperature varies depending on how the fever is measured: If the temperature is measured rectally: 100.4 degrees and aboveIf the temperature is measured by mouth: 99.5 degrees and aboveIf the temperature is measured under their arm: 99 degrees and above What Causes a Fever? Your body temperature can fluctuate at any time. Certain factors—like the menstrual cycle, exercise, emotions, and humidity—can cause the body temperature to change. Infections, autoimmune diseases, or certain medications cause fevers. Infection Typically when a fever occurs, the body is fighting an infection. Any infection can cause a fever. This can include infections such as: Urinary tract infections Osteomyelitis Appendicitis Cellulitis Meningitis Sore throats Sinus infections Bronchitis Viral gastroenteritis Autoimmune Disease If you have an autoimmune disease such as arthritis, ulcerative colitis, or vasculitis, this may cause your fever. Similar to a fever, autoimmune diseases try to protect your body. The difference is that autoimmune diseases attack healthy cells by mistake. Medication If you are taking a certain medication and develop a fever, the medication may be the cause of your fever. This includes medications like: AntibioticsAntihistaminesSeizure medications How To Break a Fever If you find yourself with a fever or caring for someone who does, there are a few ways to break a fever. Stay Hydrated Dehydration is a major side effect of fevers. If you are dehydrated, you may experience: Light-headednessThirstDecreased urinationDark-colored urineFatigueDry mouth and/or skin Dehydration in infants and young children can also include the following symptoms: Crying without tearsNot having a wet diaper for three hours or moreSunken eyes The treatment for dehydration is to drink plenty of fluids. Sports drinks give your body the necessary electrolytes to feel hydrated again. If the dehydration is more severe, you may need intravenous fluids. Of note, younger children should not consume a lot of fruit juice (including apple juice) or any sports drinks. Additionally, dietary recommendations for children can vary, so discuss your options with a healthcare provider. Don't Eat if Food Bothers You When your body is feverish due to an infection, you may also have an upset stomach or nausea, not to mention a lack of appetite. It can be hard to keep food down or simply be unappealing to eat, so don't force yourself to eat. However, if you want to eat and can do so, opt for choices such as soup or gelatin, which can also help you stay hydrated. 12 Foods and Drinks That Boost Your Immune System Stay Comfortably Cool The theory of "sweating out a fever" isn't exactly backed by evidence. So don't try to layer on blankets and keep warm, especially if you have chills. Instead, you'll probably feel better if you stay cool. Take a lukewarm shower or bath, or apply cool compresses to the neck, armpits, or forehead. These methods won't treat the underlying cause of the fever—but they can help ease some discomfort. Avoid ice-cold baths since this can cause shivering, which will increase the body temperature, as with alcohol rubs. Get Plenty of Rest When you have a fever, your immune system works overtime to battle whatever infection or disease is making you ill. Getting enough rest is important to bouncing back from a fever. According to research, sleep boosts immune system function. The study suggests that, in particular, sleep helps the body's infection-fighting T cells work more efficiently. Get plenty of sleep, and your body will do the rest. Seven Hours of Sleep Is Ideal for Most Adults, Study Finds Take a Fever Reducer Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are the go-to medicines for reducing fever in children and adults. Aspirin is also an effective treatment in adults but should never be given to children or teenagers. Aspirin has been linked to a rare but serious condition called Reye's syndrome, which can affect the liver and brain in children and teenagers. Another reminder for caregivers: Administer the correct dosage based on your child's age and weight. Be aware that acetaminophen may also be included in many over-the-counter medications to relieve cold and flu symptoms. You don't want to take too much since it can cause liver failure. When To Consult a Healthcare Provider Not all fevers are a reason to see a healthcare provider. There are some instances when you should seek medical care. For Infants For infants 12 weeks of age and younger, caregivers should see a healthcare provider any time the baby's fever is 100.4 degrees or higher. Children under 12 months of age, especially infants 6 months or younger, are extremely vulnerable when they have a fever because they can become dehydrated quickly, Dr. Ferrer explained. For Children Caregivers should see a healthcare provider for any fever that rises above 104 degrees repeatedly in a child of any age. You should consult a healthcare provider if your child has a fever, along with any of the following symptoms: Unusual drowsinessFussinessStiff neckSevere headacheSore throatEar painUnexplained rashRepeated vomiting or diarrheaYour child overall appears increasingly ill A fever lasting more than 24 hours in a child younger than 2 years old—or three days in an older child—is another reason to call a healthcare provider. Seizures are another concern when young children have fevers. Children (especially those who are 6 months to 5 years old) can experience febrile seizures, a type of seizure that typically occurs within the first 24 hours of a fever. Caregivers should call a healthcare provider when a child has a fever and a seizure. For Adults Adults should contact a healthcare provider when their fever stays at or rises above 103 degrees. If the fever keeps climbing with no sign of coming down, it is important to seek medical care. Additionally, adults should also seek medical care if they have: Fevers that come and go for up to one week (or more)A fever that lasts more than 48–72 hoursA new rash or bruiseRecently traveled to another countryA weakened immune system or a serious medical illness Because many things can cause a fever—certain medications, heat, illness, cancer, autoimmune diseases—you should keep track of the symptoms accompanying your fever to get an accurate diagnosis. Burning with urination, in addition to fever, for example, may be a sign of a urinary tract infection, while coughing and sore throat accompanying fevers could be the flu. Other Considerations A fever can be more serious for people who are immunocompromised or have other health conditions. See a healthcare provider if you have a fever and you have a weakened immune system due to: Chronic steroid therapyBone marrow or organ transplantSpleen removalHIV/AIDSCancer treatment You should also see a healthcare provider if you have a fever and have a serious health condition such as: Heart problemsSickle cell anemiaDiabetesCystic fibrosisChronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)Chronic lung problems What It Means to Have a Low-Grade Fever When To Seek Emergency Care Head directly to the emergency room when a fever is accompanied by shortness of breath. Shortness of breath is an early sign of respiratory failure and should be taken seriously. Additional symptoms that warrant a trip to the emergency room include: Can't walkWon't wake up (or doesn't wake up easily)Difficulty breathingSevere headacheStiff neckConfusionSeizure Other symptoms accompanying fever in children that warrant seeking emergency care include: Crying and cannot be consoled or calmedBlue lips, tongue, or nailsRefusal to move arms or legs Also, fever-induced seizure in children that doesn't stop after five minutes should be treated as an emergency. Call 911 immediately if this is the child's first seizure or if the child becomes injured, has trouble breathing, or is not waking up after a seizure. A Quick Review Overall, fevers signify your body is fighting an infection or illness. If you or someone you care for has mild symptoms, rest and drink plenty of fluids. It's important to monitor symptoms and know when to seek care from a healthcare provider. Cold Sweats: What to Know About Causes and Treatments, According to Experts Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. MedlinePlus. Fever. MedlinePlus. Fever. MedlinePlus. Autoimmune diseases. MedlinePlus. Dehydration. Heyman MB, Abrams SA; Section on Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition; Committee on Nutrition. Fruit juice in infants, children, and adolescents: Current recommendations. Pediatrics. 2017;139(6):e20170967. doi:10.1542/peds.2017-0967 Dimitrov S, Lange T, Gouttefangeas C, et al. Gαs-coupled receptor signaling and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells. J Exp Med. 2019;216(3):517-526. doi:10.1084/jem.20181169 MedlinePlus. Aspirin. MedlinePlus. Acetaminophen. Healthy Children. When to call the pediatrician: Fever. MedlinePlus. Febrile seizures. MedlinePlus. 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