Check Your Symptoms - What to do for a Fever

Evaluate Fever Symptoms - Check Your Temperature

If you think you have a fever, the first thing to do is take your temperature. Several types of thermometers are available and they work in different ways.

  1. Oral (digital or manual)
  2. Axillary (digital or manual)
  3. Rectal (digital or manual)
  4. Tympanic (digital) - scans ear temperature
  5. Temporal (digital) - scans skin on forehead

Once you have accurately taken your temperature, evaluate whether or not you need to take action to bring it down.

  • In adults, a temperature over about 100 F is considered a fever.
  • In children over 6 months old, a temperature over 101 F generally needs treatment. It is important to consider how your child is acting when deciding the course of action for a fever. If the child is lethargic and eating or drinking poorly, you should treat the fever more aggressively than if the child is playful and active.
  • In children 3 to 6 months old, a temperature over 101 degrees F requires a call to the pediatrician.
  • In children 0 to 3 months old, a rectal temperature over 100.4 F requires a call to the pediatrician.

Choose a Medication for Your Fever

Once you have decided that you actually have a fever and need to treat it, you should consider your medication options. The most common medications to treat fever are:

If your child is younger than 2 months old and has a fever, you should call your pediatrician before giving him or her any medication.

Tylenol is safe for children over 2 months old.

Advil and Motrin (ibuprofen) are safe for children over 6 months old.

Aspirin should not be given to children under 18 years old unless instructed to by a doctor. It should never be given to a child with cold or flu symptoms because it can cause a serious disease called Reye's Syndrome.

How Often Should You Take Medication for Your Fever?

Fever reducing medications all work differently. If your fever comes back after you take one of these medications, you may need to take them again. How often you can repeat the dose depends on which medication you are taking.


  • Adults - every 4 hours as needed
  • Children - every 4 hours as needed


  • Adults - every 4 to 6 hours as needed
  • Children - every 6 to 8 hours as needed


  • Adults - every 4 hours as needed
  • Children - should not be given to children unless instructed to do so by the child's doctor

How to Reduce a Fever Without Medication

There are a few options if you would prefer to try to reduce a fever without medication. These may also help if medication is not bringing the temperature down. 

  • Taking a bath in lukewarm water -- be sure the water is not cold, if it causes shivering, that may cause the internal body temperature to increase.
  • Cool packs or cool rags under the arms, on the forehead and in the groin area -- be sure the packs are not too cold.

What not to do:

Be sure not to wrap the person with a fever in blankets or warm clothes. Although they may feel cold, added layers will only prevent the body temperature from dropping like it should. Dress the person in one layer of comfortable clothes, provided the environmental temperature is comfortable.

Never put someone in an ice bath or use rubbing alcohol on the skin to reduce the body temperature. Both of these can be dangerous and do not work to bring down a fever.

When Should You Go to a Doctor For Your Fever?

  • In general, adults should go to a doctor for a fever if your temperature goes above 103 F and will not come down with medication or stays that high for more than 24 hours.
  • If a child over 6 months old has a temperature over 101 degrees F that lasts for three days, you should call the pediatrician.
  • A child between 3 and 6 months old that has a temperature over 101 F should be taken to the doctor.
  • A child under 3 months old with a temperature over 100.4 F should be taken to the doctor.

Causes of Fever

If you don't need to see a doctor, you may want to know what could be causing the fever. First, you should check your other symptoms.

Do you have a cough, chills, congestion, and exhaustion?

Do you have a severe sore throat?

Have you had a cough for a few weeks that is painful?

Do you have ear pain or is your child tugging on his or her ears and not sleeping well?

Do you have pain and pressure around your eyes, congestion and a headache?

It is important to note that if you think you have any of these illnesses, you should contact your healthcare provider and ask if you need to be seen. 

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