How to Tell if You Have a Fever

Two Methods:Diagnosing FeverGetting Basic Treatment for Fever

A fever is the body's natural response to a virus, infection, or other malady; it creates an inhospitable environment for the bug, which usually dies off within a matter of days. Sometimes, fevers are difficult to identify. This difficulty presents special challenges when the cause of the fever is a serious medical condition. This article will help self-identify a fever as well as give you advice about how to follow should the fever present a more serious medical situation.

Method 1
Diagnosing Fever

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    Take your temperature if you have a thermometer. If your temperature is 103°F (39.4°C) or lower, try to treat the fever at home, seeing whether it responds to at-home care.[1] If it's 104°F or higher, call emergency services or go straight to the emergency room; you may need immediate medical attention.
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    Try to feel the skin of the person in question. If you're trying to self-diagnose fever, it's going to be hard to tell whether your temperature is at 98.7°F or at 101.2°F. You're probably better off trying to look for other symptoms of a fever (see below).
    • If you're trying to diagnose fever in someone else, try feeling the temperature of your own skin and then quickly checking the temperature of the person in question's skin. This should give you a good comparison for whether the person is feverish. If your skin is much cooler than the other person's skin, they may be feverish.
    • How accurate is this measure of diagnosing fever? One study found that people who try to diagnose fever by touch "seriously overestimate" the incidence of fever, sometimes by as much as 40%.[2]
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    Check for signs of dehydration. A fever happens when your body sets its internal temperature higher to in order to ward off harmful infections, viruses, or other maladies.[3] It's a natural defense mechanism. One significant result of this switching on of the body's heat switch is that patients can get or feel dehydrated.
    • Signs[4] that you may be dehydrated include:
      • Dry mouth
      • Thirst
      • Headache and fatigue
      • Dry skin
      • Constipation
    • Dehydration can be made even worse if it is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea.[5] If you've experienced any one of these, especially, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to compensate for their loss.
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    Check for muscle aches. In many cases, muscle aches are associated with dehydration, but they can be especially aggravating in a patient with the fever. Note: If your fever presents with back of muscle stiffness, call a doctor right away, as your condition may be related to bacterial meningitis, which can potentially cause brain damage.[6]
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    Look for especially bad signs of a fever. If your fever is at or above 104°F (40°C), you could experience some of the following in addition to hot flashes, dehydration, headaches, muscle aches, and general weakness. If you do experience any of the following, or have cause to believe that your fever is above 104°F, see a doctor immediately[7]:
    • Hallucination
    • Confusion or irritability
    • Convulsions or seizures
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    When in doubt, see a doctor. If you are dealing with a child who potentially has a fever, and whose temperature clocks in at higher than 103°F (39.4°C), see a doctor. In most cases, treating mild or moderate fevers at home is completely acceptable; in few cases, the underlying reason for the fever may demand serious medical attention.

Method 2
Getting Basic Treatment for Fever

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    Understand that for low-grade (mild) fevers, some doctors recommend letting the fever run its course. A fever is a body's natural response to a foreign body. Breaking the fever before the body has had time to attack the foreign body may prolong the illness or mask other symptoms associated with the fever.[8]
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    Take an OTC pain medication. An over the counter pain medication, such as an NSAID, could help treat some of the discomfort associated with fever. Often, low doses of NSAIDs produce good results.
    • Aspirin is for adults only. Aspirin given to children has been linked to a dangerous condition called Reye's Syndrome.[9] It is therefore advisable only to administer aspirin as an adult.
    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) are acceptable substitutes for all ages. If your temperature remains high even after the recommended dose, don't take more; instead, consult a doctor.
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    Drink plenty of fluids.[10] Fluids are essential for fevers because they stave the risk of dehydration, a serious concern during fevers. Stick mostly to water if experiencing a fever. Sodas and teas, in moderation, may help calm the stomach. Try to eat soups or other liquid broths in addition to more solid foods.


  • You'll feel hot one moment and then get chilled the next. That usually means you are getting the flu, but not always.
  • You'll feel flushed and your cheeks may turn a bit red; but it's just because of the heat. If you have an icepack, it's good to put it on your face/forehead to cool down a bit.
  • Chills are often a symptom of a fever, however they can also be symptom of a more serious condition such as hypothermia or meningitis. If you do experience chills, contact your healthcare professional to diagnose the true underlying cause. A severe case of the chills can also have serious side effects such as brain damage, dehydration, seizures and shock.
  • Make sure you drink a variety of hot and cold fluids throughout the day, it helps sooth your body as well as keeping it hydrated
  • Take vitamins. And vitamin C is the best thing to fight colds, take it when you aren't sick too. It'll decrease the chances of you getting sick.
  • Feel your cheeks. If they are hot that usually means you have a fever.
  • If you are young, Paracetamol medicines may work.


  • If you have a fever for more than 48 hours (in general), without it going down, go to your doctor.
  • If you do have a thermometer, it's best to use it so you know how serious a fever is; if it is 103 degrees (Fahrenheit) for more than 24 hours and isn't going down, go to your doctor.
  • If you feel dizzy and can't really stand up, wait till you feel better before you walk around.

Article Info

Categories: Colds and Viruses