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What Causes a Fever and How to Fight It

14 Aug 2018

We’ve all had one: fevers. It’s a short-term increase in the core temperature of the body. It’s uncomfortable. And warm. And typically just one part of a larger constellation of symptoms. A fever is not usually an illness by itself but a symptom of something else that’s making you sick, such as an infection. A fever is one of the ways your body responds to and battles infections and illnesses—your body is actually trying to help. 

What Causes a Fever?

Fever can come about as a result of several conditions. Viral and bacterial infections are common fever causes. Heat exhaustion is another—particularly in summertime. Inflammatory conditions may also trigger the immune system response that causes rising body temperatures as the body fights inflammatory agents. Sometimes fevers are even a result of medications or immunizations. It can be difficult to pinpoint the cause of a fever, because the fever is a commonly found symptom in both colds and flus

Symptoms of a Fever

Symptoms of a fever can change depending on the root cause of the increased temperature, but it’s typical to see one or more of the following in those who are running a fever:

  • Extreme reaction to temperature: sweating, chills, shivering
  • Headache
  • Dehydration
  • Crankiness
  • Loss of appetite 

Some symptoms may occur around the same time, such as muscle aches and overall weakness, but aren’t symptoms of the fever itself. And of course, there’s always the classic, telltale fever sign: a warm forehead.

Remedies for a Fever

Fever Treatments

Your average body temperature can be between 97.7°F—99.5°F. This can vary by person or throughout the day. In adults, anything above 99.5°F is considered a fever (when measured orally). 

If you have a fever, you can help reduce it with acetaminophen. Many Mucinex® products contain acetaminophen, which is an analgesic and fever reducer. “Analgesic” is a fancy way of saying “pain reliever.” Acetaminophen should help bring your fever down, as well as relieve minor aches and pains, headache and sore throat. However, it’s important that you don’t take more than the daily recommended dose of acetaminophen. Adults should never exceed a total dose of 4000mg of acetaminophen in any 24-hour period. Always use over-the-counter medicine as directed. 

Try to stay hydrated, as well. Drink plenty of fluids like water or sports drinks. If you have a high fever, or symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting, sports drinks will help replenish electrolytes that your body has lost. 

When to See a Doctor

If you experience a fever as part of a known infection, it may not be cause for alarm. However, if the fever rises above 103 °F and does not decrease within 48 hours or is accompanied by any of the following additional symptoms, or other unusual symptoms, seek medical attention immediately: 

  • Headache and light sensitivity
  • Rashes of unknown origin
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Neck stiffness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain when urinating
  • Seizures 

If the cause of the fever is found to warrant it, an antibiotic or antiviral may be prescribed—but this is rare, as most fevers respond best to rest and rehydration.