For a low-grade fever, your doctor may not recommend treatment to lower your body temperature. Doing so may prolong the illness or mask symptoms and make it harder to determine the cause.
In the case of a high fever, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter medication, such as:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others). Use these medications according to the label instructions or as recommended by your doctor. Be careful to avoid taking too much. High doses or long-term use of acetaminophen may cause liver or kidney damage, and acute overdoses can be fatal. If your child's fever remains high after a dose, don't give more medication; call your doctor instead. For temperatures below 102 F (38.9 C), don't use fever-lowering drugs unless advised by your doctor.
- Aspirin, for adults only. Don't give aspirin to children, because it may trigger a rare, but potentially fatal, disorder known as Reye's syndrome.
Depending on the cause of your fever, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic, especially if he or she suspects a bacterial infection, such as pneumonia or strep throat.
Antibiotics don't treat viral infections, but there are a few antiviral drugs used to treat certain viral infections. However, the best treatment for most minor illnesses caused by viruses is often rest and plenty of fluids.
Treatment of infants
For infants, especially those younger than 28 days, your baby might need to be admitted to the hospital for testing and treatment. In babies this young, a fever could indicate a serious infection that requires intravenous (IV) medications and round-the-clock monitoring.
May 29, 2014
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- What to do in a medical emergency: Fever. American College of Emergency Physicians. http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/EmergencyManual/WhatToDoInMedicalEmergency/Default.aspx?id=242. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
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- Goldman L, et al. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 4, 2014.
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- Ward MA. Fever in infants and children: Pathophysiology and management. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 4, 2014.
- Febrile seizures fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/febrile_seizures/detail_febrile_seizures.htm. Accessed Feb. 4, 2014.
- Laptook AR, et al. Admission temperature of low birth weight infants: Predictors and associated morbidities. Pediatrics. 2007;119:e643.
- Fever in adults. The Merck Manuals: Home Edition for Patients and Caregivers. http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/infections/biology_of_infectious_disease/fever_in_adults.html. Feb. 25, 2014.
- Hoecker JL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 4, 2014.
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