Technically, a fever is any body temperature over 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius), which is considered normal. However, body temperature naturally varies from person to person. It can also vary according to the time of day and activity of a person. Most doctors don't get concerned about it until it reaches about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fever itself is not an illness. Instead, it is a response to some illness or infection in the body. To an extent, it's a useful way for the body to fight off illness. The increase in temperature helps the immune system fight off "bugs." In addition, some "bugs" are temperature sensitive and don't function well under heat.
In addition to the increase in body temperature, there are other symptoms of fever, including feeling chilled, increased heart rate, increased muscle tension, and shivering. This is the body's attempt to raise its temperature.
The way to prevent fever is to prevent illness. Do the basic things like washing your hands, eating well, getting enough rest, keeping the body strong with exercise, and so on.
If you do develop a fever, you might wish to begin taking over-the-counter medications like Tylenol or Advil to prevent it from worsening.
If you are ill, check your body temperature with a thermometer made for that purpose. There are, by the way, a variety of thermometers to choose from. There are the traditional glass thermometers that work with mercury and there are digital thermometers, which work faster and are easier to read. They operate on batteries.
You can check your body temperature orally by placing the thermometer under your tongue. Don't eat or drink anything for fifteen minutes before taking your temperature. If you are using a digital thermometer, it will beep when finished. If you are using a mercury thermometer, leave it under your tongue for three minutes.
You can also check your body temperature by placing the thermometer under you arm, in your "arm pit." If you take your temperature this way, leave the thermometer in place for five minutes before reading it.
There are also a type of thermometers that fit inside your ear. They take almost instant readings. They are often used in hospitals but are also available for home use. These may be rather costly, however, and are not as accurate as oral or rectal thermometers.
If you have a fever, you can try treating it with over-the-counter medications like aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin). You can also try cool sponge baths. Both of these methods are usually effective for relieving fever temporarily.
These things only work temporarily because they do not treat the underlying cause of the fever. In some cases, they underlying cause will need to be treated with medication or other medical care. In other cases, the illness will run its course in a day or two and treatment will not be needed. If your condition lasts more than two days or if you have a high fever (104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) you should consult with a doctor about treatment.
Two over-the-counter medications that are good for fever are Tylenol and Advil. These can help with other symptoms as well, such as headache, earache, and sore muscles that may occur with fever. Take one of these as soon as you begin running a fever and continue taking them according to the directions on the package. Don't take more than the dose recommended on the package, unless directed by your doctor.
See a doctor if you have a high body temperature that lasts more than two days. See a doctor sooner if you have other symptoms of illness that are severe. If you have a high fever, 104 degrees Fahrenheit or more, see a doctor as soon as possible. If your infant has a fever, contact your pediatrician as soon as possible. Let your doctor know about any over-the-counter medications you have been using.
Also remember that ear thermometers are not always accurate. Always use an oral or rectal thermometer if high fever is suspected.
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