What is it? Fever is a natural way for your body to fight infection. Bacteria and viruses that attack our bodies do well at body temperature but cannot successfully survive in hotter conditions. So a mild fever can actually help the immune system get rid of an infection. Most cases of mild fever resolve by themselves within a couple of days.
37° C (98.6° F) is the oral (mouth) temperature that is considered "normal" for anyone. A fever is defined as an oral or ear temperature greater than 37.5°C (99.5°F) or a rectal temperature greater than 38.0°C (100.4°F). The actual “number” of a mild fever doesn’t usually matter; a fever of 38.9°C (102°F) does not matter more than a fever of 38.3°C (101°F).
Know the cause. Having a fever lets you know that something is wrong. It can signal anything from a basic cold to a serious illness. Adults tend to run lower fevers than children and fever may be very minor in older people. It’s important to figure out what causes a fever so that serious illnesses are detected and treated. See your Doctor if: you are an adult and your fever lasts for more than 3 days, your temperature is over 40°C (104 °F) or you seem to be getting sicker as time goes by.
Children and fever. Fevers can be more worrying in children. But seeing a high number on the thermometer means their body is doing its job to fight an infection. Try to look past the fever and check for any signs of serious illness. If you are unsure, speak to your Doctor. For infants 3 months and under, always talk to your Doctor right away. And, for all young children, let them know if your child:
- is excessively fussy or irritable
- is unresponsive or very lethargic
- is under three-months old and has a fever
- has a fever greater than 39°C (102°F) with a change in behaviour (such as irritability or lethargy)
- has a fever plus a rash, or other worrisome symptoms
- has problems breathing
- has a fever for more than three days
- has a stiff neck
- has a convulsion
What you can do to help. Give lots of fluids, as the heat of the fever causes the body to lose fluids in cooling itself. A cool washcloth or sponging the body with cool water may help. If you use medication to reduce the fever choose either acetaminophen or ibuprofen (check with your Pharmacist or Doctor to help you choose) and follow the directions carefully to help reduce the fever.
Measure your temperature. Tracking temperature changes over time may help your Doctor figure out the type of infection. And, when you see the fever start to go down you will know that your body is winning the fight against whatever is causing the fever. Using a thermometer is the most accurate method of tracking temperature.
Choosing a thermometer. There are many different types of thermometers available from Life Brand including less invasive and non-contact types such as ear or forehead ones that don’t disturb a sleeping patient, so are great for young children. There are also easy-read digital or traditional contact (oral, rectal, underarm) thermometers with flexible or rigid tips. Ask your Pharmacist about the different types. And, to make tracking a fever even easier, there are some that have a fever indicator built in to track your last three readings. So you can see at a glance if the fever is increasing or reducing.