Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

With low-grade fever, doctors don't always recommend trying to lower the body temperature. Doing so may prolong the illness or mask symptoms and make it harder to determine the cause.

Some experts believe that aggressively treating a fever interferes with the body's immune response. Viruses that cause colds and other respiratory infections thrive at normal body temperature. By producing a low-grade fever, your body may be helping to eliminate a virus.

Over-the-counter medications

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, 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.

Prescription medications

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, such as stomach infection (gastroenteritis) and mononucleosis. There are a few antiviral drugs used to treat some specific viral infections. However, the best treatment for most viruses is often rest and plenty of fluids.

Jun. 01, 2011