How to Reduce a Fever

Four Methods:Reducing Fever with MedicineAlleviating Fever Symptoms with Home RemediesTaking a Temperature ReadingKnowing When to Go to the Doctor

Having a fever is a common symptom of viruses, infections, sunburn, heat-stroke, or even prescription medication.[1] The body's temperature rises as a natural defense against infection and disease. An area of the brain called the hypothalamus regulates body temperature, which fluctuates throughout the day from the normal level of 98.6 °F (37.0 °C) by a degree or two. A fever is most commonly defined as a rise in body temperature above the normal body temperature of 98.6 °F (37.0 °C).[2] While a fever is a natural process that can help your body heal, there are situations in which you may wish to ease the discomfort that fevers bring or even visit a doctor.

Method 1
Reducing Fever with Medicine

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    Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These drugs are available for purchase over the counter and effectively reduce fevers temporarily.[3] They can help both children and adults feel more comfortable as their bodies heal.
    • Consult a doctor or pharmacist before administering (child- or baby- formulated) medication to any child under the age of two, and never give ibuprofen to a baby under six months of age.[4]
    • Do not take more than the recommended dosage. Pay special attention to the dosage you give to children. Don't place medicine bottles within reach of children, since ingestion of more than the recommended dosage can be dangerous.
    • Take acetaminophen every 4 to 6 hours, but do not exceed the recommended dosage on the package.[5]
    • Take ibuprofen every 6 to 8 hours, but do not exceed the recommended dosage on the package.[6]
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    Avoid combining medications for children. Don't give children more than one over-the-counter medicine at the same time for treatment of other symptoms. If you give your child a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen, do not also give them cough medicine or any other type of other medicine without consulting your doctor first. Certain medicines interact with each other in ways that can harm your child's health.[7]
    • For infants over 6 months, children, and adults, alternating between acetaminophen and ibuprofen is safe. Usual dosages are acetaminophen every 4-6 hours and ibuprofen every 6-8 hours, depending on the dose.
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    Take aspirin only if you are over 18.[8] Aspirin is an effective fever reducer for adults, as long as you take only the recommended dosage. Never give adult aspirin to children, since it can cause Reye's syndrome, a potentially fatal disorder.[9]

Method 2
Alleviating Fever Symptoms with Home Remedies

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    Drink plenty of fluids. Keeping your body hydrated is important during a fever, since the increased body temperature can cause dehydration.[10] Drinking water and other fluids helps your body expel the virus or bacteria that's causing the fever. However, you should avoid caffeine and alcohol because these can lead to further dehydration.
    • Green tea may help reduce a fever and boost your immune system.[11]
    • If you are experiencing nausea or vomiting along with the fever, avoid fruit juices, milk, very sugary beverages and carbonated beverages. These drinks can make you feel sick or cause vomiting.[12]
    • Try replacing solid food with soup or broth to help rehydrate your body (but watch the salt content). Popsicles are also a great way to consume fluids that will also help cool your body down.
    • If you have been vomiting, you may have an electrolyte imbalance. Drink an oral rehydration solution or a sports drink with electrolytes.[13][14]
    • Children under age one who do not regularly consume breast milk or who are on a nursing strike during an illness should take a rehydration solution containing electrolytes, such as Pedialyte, to make sure they're getting the nutrients they need.[15]
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    Rest as much as possible. Sleep is the body's natural method for recovery from illness; in fact, having too little sleep can even make you sick.[16] Trying to fight through and keep going may even raise your body’s temperature.[17] By making sure you get plenty of sleep you allow your body to spend its energy fighting infection instead of something else.
    • Take the day off of work, or if your child is sick, have him or her stay home from school. The extra sleep your child will get is a sure way to a quicker recovery, and the source of the fever might be contagious, so it’s best to keep her home. Many fevers are caused by viruses that remain highly contagious as long as the fever is present.[18]
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    Wear light, breathable clothing. Don't cover yourself or your child with blankets and layers of clothing. You may feel chilled, but your body's temperature won't be able to start dropping if you're covered with warm blankets or clothes. Dress yourself or your child in a thin but cozy set of pajamas.[19]
    • Do not try to “sweat out” the fever by bundling up a feverish person.
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    Eat food as usual. Even though the old expression says “starve a fever,” that is not good advice. Continue to nourish your body with healthy foods for a quicker recovery. The old standby chicken soup is a good choice, because it contains vegetables and protein.[20]
    • If you don’t have much of an appetite, try replacing solid food with soup or broth to help rehydrate your body.
    • Eat foods with a high water content, such as watermelon, to help you stay hydrated.[21]
    • If you have nausea or vomiting with your fever, try to stick to bland foods such as saltine crackers or applesauce.[22]
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    Try herbal remedies. Some herbal remedies may help reduce a fever or support your body’s immune system as it fights whatever is causing the fever. However, herbal and natural remedies can interfere with medications and other medical conditions, so you should consult with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any.[23]
    • Andrographis paniculata is widely used in traditional Chinese Medicine to treat colds, sore throats, and fevers. Use 6 g a day for 7 days. Do not use andrographis if you have gallbladder or an autoimmune disease, are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, or take blood pressure or blood thinning medications such as warfarin.
    • Yarrow may help reduce fevers by encouraging sweating. If you have ragweed or daisy allergies, you may experience an allergic reaction to yarrow. Do not take yarrow if you also take blood thinning or blood pressure medications, lithium, stomach acid reducers, or anticonvulsants. Children and pregnant women should not use yarrow. You may find that adding yarrow tincture to a warm (not hot) bath helps reduce fever.[24][25]
    • Despite its name, feverfew doesn’t actually work very well to reduce fevers.[26]
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    Take a lukewarm bath. Drawing a lukewarm bath, or a relaxing shower, is an easy and comfortable way to reduce a fever. A lukewarm or room temperature dip is usually just the right temperature to cool your body without throwing off your equilibrium. It can be particularly helpful right after taking fever medication.[27]
    • Do not give yourself or your child a hot bath. You should also avoid cold baths, which can lead to shivering that can actually increase internal temperature. If you do want to have a bath, the only appropriate temperature is lukewarm, or just above room temperature.[28]
    • If your child has a fever, you can bathe him or her with a sponge dipped in lukewarm water. Gently wash your child's body, pat him or her dry with a soft towel, and dress your child quickly so he or she doesn't get too chilled, which can lead to shivering, which heats up the body.
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    Never use rubbing alcohol to reduce a fever. Rubbing alcohol baths are an old remedy people used to use to bring fevers down, but they cause the body temperature to drop dangerously quickly.[29][30]
    • Rubbing alcohol can also lead to coma if consumed, so it is not appropriate for use or storage around small children.[31]

Method 3
Taking a Temperature Reading

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    Select a thermometer. There are several different types of thermometers, including digital and glass (mercury) models.[32] The most common way to take a temperature for an older child or an adult is to place a digital or glass thermometer underneath your tongue to measure your body’s heat, but there are several other thermometers that use alternate methods for temperature taking.
    • Digital thermometers can be used orally or rectally (see below) or under the armpit (though this reduces the accuracy of the reading). The thermometer will beep when the reading is complete, and the temperature displays on a screen.
    • Tympanic thermometers are used inside the ear canal, and they measure temperature with an infrared light. The downside to this style of thermometer is that a buildup of earwax or the shape of an ear canal can skew the accuracy of the reading.
    • Temporal thermometers use an infrared light to measure the temperature. These thermometers are great because they are quick and least invasive. To use this type of thermometer, you slide the thermometer from the forehead to the temporal artery, right above the top of the cheekbone. It can be difficult to master proper placement, but taking several readings can improve the accuracy of the reading.
    • Pacifier thermometers can be used for babies. These are similar to oral digital thermometers, but perfect for babies who use pacifiers. The peak reading is displayed when the temperature is measured.
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    Check your temperature. After selecting a thermometer, take your temperature according to the method that the thermometer is made for (either orally, in the ear, on the temporal artery, or rectally for a child (see below). If you have a fever above 103 °F (39 °C),[33] you have a baby over 3 months with a fever over 102 °F (39 °C), or you have a newborn (0-3 months) with a fever over 100.4, call the doctor immediately.[34]
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    Take a young child’s temperature rectally. The most accurate way to take a child’s temperature is through her rectum, but you should use extreme caution so that you do not perforate the child’s bowel. The best thermometer for rectal temperatures is a digital thermometer.
    • Place a small amount of petroleum jelly or ky jelly on the thermometer probe.
    • Lay your child on her stomach. Get another person to help if necessary.
    • Carefully insert the probe one-half inch to one inch into the anus.
    • Hold the thermometer and child still for about one minute, until you hear a beep. Do not let go of your child or the thermometer to avoid injury.
    • Remove the thermometer and interpret the reading on the screen.
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    Let the fever run its course. If the fever is relatively low grade (up to 102 degrees for an adult or a child over 6 months), reducing it entirely is not necessarily recommended. Fevers are produced by the body as a sign that there's another issue going on, so making it go away can mask a deeper problem.
    • Aggressively treating a fever can also interfere with your body's natural method of getting rid of a virus or infection. A lower body temperature might produce a more habitable environment for foreign bodies, so it can be better to let the fever run its course.[35]
    • Letting the fever run its course is not recommended for individuals who are immunocompromised, taking chemotherapy drugs, or who have had a surgery recently.[36]
    • Instead of trying to get rid of the fever, take measures to make you or your child more comfortable during the course of the fever, such as rest, drinking fluids, and staying cool.[37]

Method 4
Knowing When to Go to the Doctor

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    Recognize the symptoms of a fever. Not everyone’s normal body temperature is exactly 98.6 °F (37.0 °C). A variation from your normal body temperature of a degree or two is normal.[38] Even a mild fever is usually not cause for concern.[39] The symptoms of a mild fever include:
    • Discomfort, feeling too warm
    • General weakness
    • Warm body
    • Shivering
    • Sweating
    • Depending on the cause of the fever, you may also see any of the following symptoms: headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite, or dehydration.
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    Call the doctor if the fever is high.[40] Adults should go to the doctor with a fever higher than 103 °F (39 °C). Children's bodies are more sensitive to the effects of fevers than adults’ bodies are. Call the doctor in the following cases:[41]
    • You have an infant under three months old with a fever over 100.4 °F (38.0 °C)
    • You have a baby three to six months old with a fever greater than 102 °F (39 °C).
    • You have a child of any age with a fever greater than 102 °F (39 °C)
    • You or another adult have a fever of 103 °F (39 °C) or higher, particularly in conjunction with excessive drowsiness or irritability.
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    Call the doctor if the fever lasts more than a few days. A fever that lasts more than two or three days may be a sign of a deeper problem that needs to be treated separately. Don't try to diagnose yourself or your child; go to the doctor to get it checked out. You should see the doctor if:[42][43]
    • The fever stays longer than 24 hours in a child under 2
    • The fever stays for 72 hours (3 days) in any child over 2
    • The fever persists past 3 days in an adult
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    Know when to seek immediate medical attention. If the fever is accompanied by symptoms that indicate other problems, or when the person with the fever has extenuating circumstances, you need to contact a doctor, regardless of how high the fever is. Here are some circumstances in which you should seek immediate medical attention:[44][45]
    • The person has difficulty breathing
    • A rash or spots develop on the person’s skin
    • The person exhibits listlessness or delirium
    • The person has unusual sensitivity to bright lights
    • The person has any other chronic condition such as diabetes, cancer or HIV
    • The person has recently traveled to another country
    • The fever has resulted from an overly hot environment such as being outside in extreme heat or being in an overheated vehicle
    • The person with the fever complains of other symptoms like sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, ear pain, rash, headache, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, trouble breathing, confusion, neck pain, or pain with urination
    • The fever is lowered, but the person is still acting sick
    • If the person has a seizure, call 911


  • Always consult a physician before administering medication to a child under the age of two.
  • Be aware of up-to-date dosing recommendations. For example, infant acetaminophen bottle concentrations have recently been changed to a less concentrated dose (80 mg/0.8 mL to 160 mg/5 mL).

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