We've all been there – one minute, you're feeling fine, and the next, you're bundled under blankets, shivering and sweating. A fever can make you feel downright miserable. While it's natural to worry, it's important to remember that a fever is your body’s way of fighting off an infection. The key is knowing how to manage it safely and when to seek medical attention. 

Causes of fever

A fever is your body's way of creating an inhospitable environment for viruses and bacteria. It can be triggered by various factors, including: 
  • Viral infections: such as the flu, COVID-19, or the common cold. 
  • Bacterial infections: like strep throat or pneumonia. 
  • Inflammatory conditions: such as rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn's disease. 
  • Immunisations or vaccinations. 
  • Certain medications or treatments: like chemotherapy. 
While a low-grade fever is generally nothing to worry about, a high or persistent fever can signal a more serious underlying condition. 

How to treat a fever at home?

If you’re a generally healthy adult dealing with a mild fever, there are several effective home remedies you can try: 
  1. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids, such as water, broths, or electrolyte-replacement therapy drinks. Dehydration can make a fever feel even worse. 
  2. Take over-the-counter medication: Paracetamol or ibuprofen can help reduce fever and alleviate body aches and headaches. 
  3. Dress lightly: Wear lightweight, breathable clothing and avoid bundling up, which can trap body heat and raise your temperature. 
  4. Take a lukewarm bath or shower: The cooling effect can help bring down a high fever gradually. Avoid cold water, as it can cause shivering and raise your body temperature. 
  5. Use a cool compress: Apply a damp, cool (not cold) cloth to your forehead, neck, or armpits to help lower your body temperature. 
  6. Get plenty of rest: Your body needs energy to fight off the infection, so take it easy and avoid strenuous activities. 
  7. Monitor your fever: Check your temperature regularly to ensure it doesn't rise too high or persist for too long. 

What to avoid?

While home remedies can be helpful, there are a few things you'll want to steer clear of: 
  • Alcohol: It can dehydrate you and interfere with your body's ability to regulate temperature. 
  • Aspirin: It can increase the risk of complications like Reye's syndrome in certain viral illnesses. 
  • Bundling up: Trapping body heat can raise your fever even higher. 

When to consult a doctor?

In most cases, a mild fever in an otherwise healthy adult is nothing to worry about. However, there are certain situations where you should seek medical attention: 
  • Fever over 39.4°C 
  • Fever lasting more than 3 days. 
  • Signs of dehydration: like dry mouth, dizziness, or dark urine. 
  • Difficulty breathing or chest pain. 
  • Severe headache or stiff neck or sensitivity to light. 
  • Rash or other concerning symptoms. 
Trust your instincts – if something doesn’t seem right, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. 

Can a telehealth doctor help with fever?

Telehealth services, like video consultations with an online doctor, can be a convenient and cost-effective way to get expert advice on managing your fever. They can assess your symptoms, recommend appropriate treatment, and let you know if an in-person visit is necessary. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for a fever to subside in adults?

The duration of a fever varies depending on the underlying cause. Most fevers caused by viral illnesses like the flu or common cold will settle down within 3-4 days. However, some bacterial infections may require antibiotics to help resolve the fever. 

Is there a way to force a fever to go away?

While there’s no surefire way to "force" a fever to go away, taking fever-reducing medication like paracetamol or ibuprofen, staying hydrated, and using cooling methods like lukewarm baths or compresses can help bring down a high fever more quickly. 

At what temp should I go to the hospital?

If your fever reaches 39.4°C or higher, it's a good idea to seek medical attention, especially if it's accompanied by other concerning symptoms like difficulty breathing or severe headache. 

How long is too long for a fever?

In general, a fever that lasts more than 3 days or a fever that keeps rising despite treatment is considered too long and may require medical evaluation. 

Why do fevers spike at night?

Fevers often seem worse at night due to our natural circadian rhythms. Our body temperatures tend to be slightly higher in the evening and overnight hours, which can cause a fever to spike during this time. 

How do you know if a fever is viral or bacterial?

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a viral and bacterial fever based on symptoms alone. However, some general guidelines include: 
  • Viral fevers: tend to come on gradually and are often accompanied by symptoms like a runny nose, cough, or sore throat. 
  • Bacterial fevers: tend to come on more suddenly and may be accompanied by symptoms like severe body aches, chills, or a productive cough. 

What if a fever is not going down with paracetamol or ibuprofen?

If your fever persists or continues to rise despite taking over-the-counter medication like paracetamol or ibuprofen, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor. They may need to investigate the underlying cause or prescribe stronger medication. 

Is it better to let a fever run its course?

In some cases, it may be better to let a mild fever run its course, as it's a sign that your body is fighting off an infection. However, if the fever is high or accompanied by concerning symptoms, it's generally recommended to try to bring it down with medication or cooling methods. 

In conclusion, managing a fever as an adult can be a delicate balance between letting your body do its job and taking steps to keep the fever from getting too high. By staying hydrated, using safe home remedies, and knowing when to seek medical attention, you can help your body recover more quickly and comfortably. Remember, a fever is often a sign that your immune system is working hard – and with the right care, you’ll be back on your feet in no time. 

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This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.