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Methodist Boerne Emergency Center

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What is a Fever

Normal body temperature: 97.5° - 98.9°F

For adults and kids, even infants, a fever is defined as any temp over 100.4°F orally and 101.4°F using a rectal or temporal artery thermometer. But most fevers don’t require medical attention. Here’s a general guideline for when to call a doctor:



Younger than 3 months

Any fever ( >100.4°F)

3 to 6 months

> 102°F

6 to 24 months

> 102°F lasting more than 1 day

2 to 17 years

> 102°F AND one ore more of these factors:

  • Seems unusually irritable, lethargic and uncomfortable OR
  • Lasts longer than 3 days OR
  • Doesn’t respond to medication


Consistently > 103°F OR lasts longer than 3 days

People who have recently been immunized or have chronic medical conditions may be given specific instructions by their doctors when to report a fever.


What Will the ER Team Want to Know About Your Fever?

At the ER, your medical team will want to get some information about your fever:

  • How long have you had the fever?
  • Has it stayed high? How high did it get?
  • Do you have any pain anywhere, like a headache?
  • Have you had any other symptoms like vomiting, fatigue, stiff neck or a rash?
  • Do you have any other medical conditions like diabetes, cancer, HIV?
  • Any recent surgery or cuts/injuries?
  • Have you traveled recently?
  • Have you been around anyone who is sick or has similar symptoms?
  • Have you been around pets or other animals?
  • Have you had any recent dental work or a teeth cleaning?
  • Are you taking any prescription drugs?
  • Have you taken anything for the fever? When did you take the last dose and what was the amount?
  • For a child, what immunizations has the child had and when?
  • Have you taken the child’s temperature at home? If so, when and how?
  • Has their activity level changed—sleeping, eating, playing?

Staying Hydrated with a Fever (or Flu, or Summer Heat)

Fever keeps you hot and can dehydrate you. When you’re dealing with symptoms like fever, especially when combined with warm weather, be attentive to dehydration. Some of the best ways to stay hydrated:

  • Carry a water bottle. Have water available and drink it regularly. Stick with water or sports drinks and avoid caffeine or alcohol, which can dehydrate you.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables. The water contained in fruits and veggies can help, as can soups.
  • Keep it cold. Try ice chips or popsicles.
  • Steam and humidity. It’s not quite as effective as drinking, but taking a hot shower with lots of steam can help hydrate you. If you are dealing with dry air, a humidifier can help.
  • Pay attention to your body. Illness or being in different conditions (like when traveling) can dehydrate you without you realizing it. Check your urine color. It should be almost clear. If it is dark, you are probably dehydrated.

How to Quickly Lower a High Fever Safely

Medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen will reduce a fever gradually. You can also try these methods to bring down a fever faster:

  • Fluids. Drink plenty of water, tea and sports drinks. For children, use water, popsicles or oral rehydrating solutions. For infants, nurse them more often or give them bottles more often.
  • Lukewarm bath. Bathe in a lukewarm bath or shower. Don’t use ice, cold water or alcohol. If shivering starts, warm up the water and then get out.
  • Wear light clothing. Light, loose clothing keeps the body cooler.

ER Checklist: What to Bring

  • Insurance card and photo ID
  • List of current medications and dosages
  • List of allergies
  • Test results or information related to recent diagnosis or chronic condition
  • Phone number and correct spelling of your primary physician’s name
  • Phone number for your emergency contact
  • List of questions and pen/paper to write answers
  • Glasses and hearing aids
  • Healthcare paperwork (advance directive, healthcare proxy, DNR)
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Someone to help translate if you’re not fluent in English
  • Another adult to help or keep you company
  • For suspected poisoning: Bring the medication, household cleaner or other substance with you, including the container
  • For kids, you might also want to bring a comfort item, like a stuffed animal, and something to do (e.g., toy or coloring book)

Do not delay seeking medical attention to find these items.

Spread the Word: Know When To Go to the ER for Fever

When is a fever just a fever and when should you head to an ER? Use your Facebook or Twitter accounts to help your friends tell the difference: