When to See a Doctor for a Fever

Sick woman taking her temperature
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Fevers are not always serious. Typically, they are just our bodies' way of fighting off an infection. If you are concerned about a fever or wondering what temperature is too high, these tips will help you. While there is no specific number that is going to send you to the hospital in most cases, there are several things to take into consideration.

What to Watch For

You should contact your doctor if you have a fever and any of these other symptoms.

  1. When fever lasts for more than 48 hours.
  2. Baby under 3 months old with any temperature over 100.3 F.
  3. When accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea that lasts more than 12 hours or is bloody.
  4. When accompanied by a cough that produces yellow, green, tan or bloody mucous.
  5. When accompanied by a severe headache, neck stiffness, drowsiness, and vomiting. This is a medical emergency; go to the Emergency Room immediately.
  6. When fevers come and go, you have night sweats and swollen lymph nodes.
  7. When a mild fever comes and goes along with sore throat and tiredness.
  8. When accompanied by a sore throat and headache for more than 48 hours.
  9. When accompanied by severe stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.
  10. When accompanied by an earache.
  11. When you have been exposed to high temperatures outside and you cannot get your temperature down after attempting cool down measures. This is an emergency and you should seek medical attention immediately
  1. When you have recently started taking a new medicine and have no other symptoms.
  2. When you have pain or burning when urinating or back pain.
  3. When temperature remains above 103 degrees despite medication and other cool down measures (ie. taking a cool bath, cool compresses on head and under arms, drinking cool drinks).

    Although people worry about fever, it is only a symptom of an illness, not an illness itself. A fever is the body's way of fighting off an infection and is almost never harmful. Most of the reasons listed above for seeking medical attention are so you can be evaluated and treated if the cause of the fever is something serious. The common misconception that high fevers cause brain damage just isn't true.

    Kids frequently have high fevers and although it may be concerning as a parent, paying attention to your child's behavior is far more important than the number on the thermometer (with the exception being infants under 3 months old as stated above). If your child feels better and plays after you give her a fever-reducing medicine, you probably don't need to worry.

    Of course, if you are concerned about your temperature, symptoms or have questions about your own health, contact your health care provider to get personalized information.


    "Fever." Familydoctor.org. 1996. American Academy of Family Physicians. 

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