Adult Fever Symptoms, Treatment and When to Call a Doctor

When you’re riding the waves of chills, followed immediately by an increase in body temperature, it can be exhausting. For most adults, this is a familiar roller coaster experience where all signs and symptoms point in one direction: the onset of a fever.

But how can you be sure that you have a fever? Here’s what you need to know:

What temperature is a fever?
The average normal body temperature for an adult is 98.2°F (37°C)1. Most medical professionals consider a temperature above 100.4°F (38°C) as a sign of a fever2.

How long will a fever last?
The length of a fever can vary significantly – in some cases it can last a few hours, while in other circumstances it can be drawn out over several days.3 How long a fever lasts depends on its cause and how you care for yourself while you are sick. Among a long list of possibilities, common triggers include: respiratory infections such as a flu or cold, or an ear or sinus infection. 4

What are the signs and symptoms of a fever?
Common symptoms of a fever include: Mild or moderate headaches, rapid heart rate, skin flushing, excessive sweating, quivering or shivering, loss of appetite and general weakness.5

On the plus side, if you have a fever, there is some good news: It’s usually a sign that your body is fighting an illness or infection. A fever is simply your body’s natural way of defending itself.

Tips for feeling better:
Stay home and rest. Listen to your body; it’s telling you loud and clear that you need to rest, and if you ignore it, you can cause further stress which will likely postpone your recovery. 6

Drink plenty of fluids. A fever will likely cause excessive perspiration, and if you don’t replenish the fluids you lose, you risk becoming dehydrated.7 If you’re tired of drinking water, fruit juices, clear soups and herbal teas will help nourish your body and speed up the healing process.

Take medication. Acetaminophen (found in TYLENOL® products) will help lower your body’s temperature8, giving you relief.

Relax and stay cool. For relief, dress comfortably in light layers and if necessary, reduce the temperature of your home. Both of these can help you feel more comfortable.

When to seek medical attention:
Call your doctor or seek medical attention if any of the following conditions exist:9

  • Your temperature climbs to 103°F or higher.
  • The fever has lasted more than three days.
  • You have previously fainted or feel like you are about to faint.
  • You experience confusion or excessive drowsiness.
  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing.