A fever is the body’s natural reaction to fighting infections. The increase in body temperature makes it harder for the bacteria and viruses that create infection to survive. The best way to test for a fever is to use a thermometer. A temperature above 37.5°C in children or adults is considered to be a fever.
What can cause a fever?
Here are some common causes of fevers:
• Coughs and colds
• Ear infections
• Kidney or urinary infections
In children, a fever may also come from common childhood illnesses such as chickenpox and whooping cough. If you or your child is experiencing an illness along with your fever, you may need to consult your Doctor or pharmacist for further advice.
What does a fever feel like?
If you have a fever, how you feel may vary depending on the cause of the rise in temperature. For instance, if you have the flu, you may have a headache or body aches as well as a high temperature. If you have a cold, your fever may accompany symptoms like sneezing. If you're concerned about your symptoms, you can visit your Doctor.
What are possible treatments for a fever?
Fevers are quite common and will usually get better on their own without treatment. Keeping yourself cool and taking paracetamol are usually all that’s needed to help reduce a fever. However, there are measures you can take to reduce a fever, including:
• Wearing light clothing
• Drinking plenty of water (a good aim for most people is six to eight glasses per day)
• Taking paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin (remember not to give aspirin to anyone under the age of 16)
To help reduce a child’s temperature, you should:
• Give them plenty of cool water to drink
• Keep their room cool (18°C)
• Give them paracetamol or ibuprofen if they're old enough – don't give paracetamol to children two months or less, and don't give ibuprofen to children who are less than three months or less than 5kg
When should you call an ambulance with a fever?
Potentially serious causes of fever are uncommon. However, if your symptoms worsen, or new symptoms develop, you may want to visit your Doctor. Call 999 for an ambulance or go to A&E if you or your child have a fever along with any of the following:
• Repeated vomiting or green (bile-stained) sick
• A spotty purple-red rash anywhere on the body that doesn't fade if a glass is rolled over it
• Severe abdominal pain
• Unusual drowsiness, making it hard to wake up or stay awake
• Difficulty breathing
• A high-pitched, weak or continuous cry
• A stiff neck
• A bulging fontanelle (the soft spot on a baby’s head)
• Blue, pale, mottled or ashen skin
• Fits, convulsions or seizures for the first time
Signs that you should make an urgent Doctor appointment include the following:
• Your child is under three months old with a temperature of 38°C or above
• Your child is between three and six months with a temperature of 39°C or above
• Your child is over six months old with other signs of possible illness, such as floppiness or drowsiness
• Your child has other symptoms such as a rash, along with a high temperature
• Your child is showing signs of dehydration, such as fewer wet nappies
• Your child has a high temperature which lasts more than five days
• Your child isn't responding to paracetamol or ibuprofen
• If you're worried
• Test for fever with a thermometer. Several types are available, with ear thermometers often regarded as being the most accurate
• Treat the symptoms of fever by drinking plenty of water, getting rest and taking over-the-counter medicine
• If your or your child's symptoms get worse, if new symptoms develop or if you're worried, seek medical advice