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Overview of Fever

A fever is a body temperature that is higher than normal (98.6ºF). It is part of our body’s defense against infection, as it activates the body’s immune system. Besides heat stroke and infection, cancer and collagen vascular diseases or noninfectious inflammatory diseases can also cause an increase in the body temperature.1 A rectal temperature higher than 100.4º F always confirms the presence of fever.

In general, body temperature is usually lowest in the early morning and highest in the evening. It can be raised by physical activity, emotional stress, heavy clothing, medications and high room temperature. This is particularly true in children. Some infants and children develop fevers after receiving routine immunizations such as the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DPT) or pneumococcal vaccines. Most fevers usually subside within a few days and not all fevers need treatment with medications. Unexplained fever which is persistent for 3 weeks or more is called fever of unknown origin (FUO).1

Fever can be continuous as seen in pneumonia and urinary tract infection, intermittent as in malaria and septicemia or remittent as seen in infective endocarditis. As fever can occur with many different conditions, coexisting signs and symptoms can help in identifying the cause of the fever. Fever which is very high may lead to febrile convulsions (in children younger than six years),2 hallucinations, confusion and irritability.

First Aid of Fever

The first aid for fever consists of the following:

  • Monitor temperature using a thermometer, if available.
  • Give an analgesic such as acetaminophen (in doses appropriate to the body weight) every 3–4 h.
  • Keep the person in a cool environment.
  • Give a sponge bath in luke warm water.
  • Ensure the person is adequately hydrated. Give plenty of fluids.
  • Seek medical attention if fever persists or is not relieved by medication or if temperatures rises above 102ºF.
  • Further therapy depends on the cause of the fever and the accompanying symptoms.
  • If the fever is caused by heat stroke or overexertion, the febrile person needs to be cooled immediately. Remove the person from the hot environment and give body sponge with tepid water. If the person is confused or unconscious, seek emergency medical help immediately.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Avoid putting excess clothes. Don’t bundle up infants.
  • Avoid giving aspirin to a child with fever as it may cause Reye syndrome, which can lead to liver failure.
  • Fever medicines come in different dosages, so always check the instructions on the package carefully before giving the medicine.
  • Avoid cold baths or alcohol rubs.
  • Ensure adequate rest.
  • Do not delay medical help when fever is persistent or very high, particularly in children.


1.Mansueto P, Di Lorenzo G, Rizzo M, Di Rosa S, Vitale G, Rini G, et al. Fever of unknown origin in a Mediterranean survey from a division of internal medicine: report of 91 cases during a 12-year-period (1991-2002). Intern Emerg Med. 2008 Feb 9; (Epub ahead of print).

2.Jones T, Jacobsen SJ. Childhood febrile seizures: Overview and implications. Int J Med Sci. 2007; 4(2): 110–114.

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Written by: healthplus24 team
Date last updated: May 02, 2015

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