The Catholic University of America

I have a fever.

Treating a Fever

Fever is defined as a body temperature above normal and typically indicates that there may be some abnormal process occurring, such as a viral or bacterial infection. It is a symptom, rather than the illness itself.  Fever is one of the body's natural defenses against viruses and bacteria that cannot live at higher temperatures.

What does it mean by high or low-grade?

How high a fever is does not necessarily indicate the severity of the illness causing the fever.

  • Temperature between 98.8-100.6 is a low-grade fever and is not considered clinically significant although the patient may feel unwell.
  • Temperature between 101-102 is considered a mild fever
  • Temperature between 102-103 is considered moderate and above 103 is high 

Signs of a fever

  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Nausea (and sometimes vomiting)
  • Feeling very hot and then cold with chills and shivering 

Taking a temperature

Even if you are convinced by the way you feel that you have a fever, the only way to know for sure is to use a thermometer. Digital thermometers are very easy to use . You cannot rely on the "hands-on" technique"! 

How to Treat a Fever

Do not use Aspirin!

  • Take Tylenol, 2 tablets every 4-6 hours for fever, do not take more than 8 extra-strength Tylenol (500mg) tablets in one day.
  • Take Ibuprofen (advil, motrin), 2-3 tablets every 4-6 hours. Do not use Ibuprofen if you have a history of aspirin allergy or a stomach ulcer.
  • You can use both ibuprofen and Tylenol (acetaminophen) for fever control. You can alternate them, so that you can take one or the other every 2-3 hours if your fever is still up. For instance, if you take 2 tylenol at 10am and still have a fever at noon, you can take Ibuprofen.
  • Dress lightly and use a lukewarm bath or washcloths to help cool the body temperature. 

When to Call the Doctor

Call your health care provider for a fever that does not come down despite treatment, that lasts more than 3 days, that spikes rapidly or if there is anything that you are uncomfortable with.