Diagnosis

To evaluate a fever, your doctor may:

  • Ask questions about your symptoms and medical history
  • Perform a physical exam
  • Order tests, such as blood tests or a chest X-ray, as needed, based on your medical history and physical exam

Because a fever can indicate a serious illness in a young infant, especially one 28 days or younger, your baby might be admitted to the hospital for testing and treatment.

Treatment

For a low-grade fever, your doctor may not recommend treatment to lower your body temperature. These minor fevers may even be helpful in reducing the number of microbes causing your illness.

Over-the-counter medications

In the case of a high fever, or a low fever that's causing discomfort, 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 or ibuprofen 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.

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, 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.

Lifestyle and home remedies

You can try a number of things to make yourself or your child more comfortable during a fever:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Fever can cause fluid loss and dehydration, so drink water, juices or broth. For a child under age 1, use an oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte. These solutions contain water and salts proportioned to replenish fluids and electrolytes. Pedialyte ice pops also are available.
  • Rest. You need rest to recover, and activity can raise your body temperature.
  • Stay cool. Dress in light clothing, keep the room temperature cool and sleep with only a sheet or light blanket.

Preparing for your appointment

Your appointment may be with your family doctor, general practitioner or pediatrician. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and know what to expect from the doctor.

What you can do

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance.
  • Write down information about the fever, such as when it started, how and where you measured it (orally or rectally, for example) and any other symptoms. Note whether you or your child has been around anyone who's been ill.
  • Write down key personal information, including possible exposure to anyone who's been ill or recent travel out of the country.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins and supplements that you or your child is taking.
  • Write down questions to ask the doctor.

For a fever, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's likely causing the fever?
  • Could anything else be causing it?
  • What kinds of tests are needed?
  • What treatment approach do you recommend? Are there any alternatives?
  • Is medicine necessary to lower the fever? What are the side effects of such medications?
  • Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
  • Do you have any printed materials that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment as they occur to you.

What to expect from your doctor

Be prepared to answer questions your doctor might ask you, such as:

  • When did the symptoms first occur?
  • What method did you use to take your or your child's temperature?
  • What was the temperature of the environment surrounding you or your child?
  • Have you or your child taken any fever-lowering medication?
  • What other symptoms are you or your child experiencing? How severe are they?
  • Do you or your child have any chronic health conditions?
  • What medications do you or your child regularly take?
  • Have you or your child been around anyone who's ill?
  • Have you or your child recently had surgery?
  • Have you or your child recently traveled outside the country?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve the symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen the symptoms?