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Fever describes a rise in a person's body temperature. It may be caused by many different viral and bacterial infections, or other medical conditions.

Fever is one of the most common symptoms of illness that can range from benign to potentially serious. Many infants and children develop high fevers in response to minor viral illnesses.

As a person develops a fever, he or she may actually feel cold despite the rise in body temperature. Once the body temperature has increased to a stable level, the person may then feel the onset of warmth, flushing or sweating.

What temperature is a fever?

A child has a fever when the temperature is at or above one of these levels:

An adult probably has a fever when his or her temperature rises above 99 - 99.5 °F (37.2 - 37.5 °C), depending on the time of day.

Causes of Fever

Effects of Fever

Some children may develop seizures in response to high fevers. These are called febrile seizures. Most febrile seizures end quickly and do not cause any permanent damage and do not mean that the child will develop epilepsy.

Brain damage from a fever generally will not occur unless the fever is over 107.6 °F (42 °C). Untreated fevers caused by infection will seldom go over 105 °F unless the child is overdressed or trapped in a hot place.

When to Contact a Medical Professional About Fever

Children with Fever

Call a doctor right away if your child:

Call 911 if you or your child has a fever and:

Adult with Fever

Call your doctor right away if you are an adult and you:

Home Care for Fever

No treatment is necessary in older children and adults if the fever is mild and there are no other problems. Treatment should focus on staying rested and drinking fluids.

The illness is probably not serious if your child:

Take steps to lower a fever if you or your child is uncomfortable, vomiting, dried out (dehydrated), or not sleeping well. The goal is to lower, not eliminate, the fever.

When trying to lower a fever:

Here are some guidelines for taking medicine to lower a fever:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your doctor will perform a physical examination to look for signs of infection or other possible causes of the fever.

Your doctor will recommend treatment depending on the duration and cause of the fever, as well as  other symptoms.

In some cases, tests may be ordered to identify the cause of the fever. Tests may include blood tests (CBC), urinalysis (UA), or chest x-ray.