04-21-2021 General

What Temperature is a Fever?

What Temperature is a Fever

“Normal” body temperature ranges a bit from person to person. In the 19th century, a German doctor set the standard body temperature at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and this may be what you consider to be “normal.”1 However, more recent studies have actually shown that most people are closer to a baseline of 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

When understanding normal body temperature and what constitutes a fever, it’s important to recognize that a typical adult can fall within a normal range. This range is anywhere from 97 degrees Fahrenheit to 99 degrees Fahrenheit.1 For babies and children, the range is a little bit higher - from 97.9 degrees Fahrenheit to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.1

In this article, we’ll discuss what happens when normal body temperatures changes, why bodies spike fevers, how you can treat fevers at home, and when to seek medical attention. As always, this is not expert medical advice, and it’s always best to consult your doctor when it pertains to your health.

When Does Normal Body Temperature Change?

Your body temperature does not stay the same all day. It will vary for different reasons throughout the day and your life. Here are some of the reasons that changes may occur.1

  • Your activity
  • Time of day
  • Your age
  • Your sex
  • What you’ve had to eat or drink
  • Where you are in your menstrual cycle

Your body temperature may also change depending on where you take your temperature. For example, underarm temperature readings can be a degree lower than your mouth while rectal temperature readings are a degree higher than mouth readings. In the next section, we’ll discuss how to properly take your temperature.

 

 

How Do You Take Your Temperature?

Taking your temperature can be done in five different ways: orally, inside the ear canal, using the temporal artery, in your armpit, or rectally. In this section, we’ll review how to take your temperature the first four ways.2

First, no matter, which type of thermometer you use, make sure you follow these steps.

  • Read the thermometer instructions
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water
  • Clean the thermometer before and after each use with rubbing alcohol or soap and lukewarm water.
  • Never use the same thermometer for oral and rectal temperatures
    • Get two different thermometers and label them as such
  • Wait at least 6 hours after taking medications that can lower temperatures (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin) before taking your temperature so you can get an accurate read

To take your temperature with an oral thermometer, follow these steps:

  1. Wait 30 minutes after you’ve had anything to eaten or drink
  2. Turn the digital thermometer on
  3. Place the thermometer tip under your tongue
  4. Close your mouth around the thermometer for the directed time or until you hear the thermometer beep
  5. Remove the thermometer and read the number

To take your temperature with an ear thermometer, follow these steps:

  1. Turn on the digital thermometer
  2. Gently place it in your ear canal no further than indicated by the instructions
  3. Hold the thermometer firmly in place until it beeps
  4. Remove the thermometer and read the number

To take your temperature with a temporal artery thermometer, follow these steps:

  1. Turn on the digital thermometer
  2. Gently sweep it across your forehead and read the number

To take your temperature with a digital thermometer in your armpit, follow these steps:

  1. Turn on the digital thermometer
  2. Place the thermometer under your armpit
  3. Make sure your thermometer is touching skin and not clothing
  4. Hold the thermometer tightly in place until it beeps
  5. Remove the thermometer and read the number

Beware that underarm readings will be about a degree lower than those taken in the mouth.

What is a Fever?

The CDC considers a person to have a fever when he or she has a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.3 A low-grade fever occurs when your temperature is between 100.4- and 102.2-degrees Fahrenheit.4

A fever is a body’s natural response to infection. Whether it’s bacterial or viral, your body will spike a fever when it senses some kind of foreign invader. The hypothalamus in the brain controls the body’s temperature and raises it as a defense mechanism against whatever is invading the body as foreign particles can’t survive above 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.5

How to Treat Fevers at Home

If you take your temperature and have a fever, it’s possible to treat it at home depending on your other symptoms. Remember, running a fever is often your body’s response to fighting infections, but it can also result from getting sunburned or getting immunizations.

Right now, one of the most common reasons to get a fever is due to a COVID-19 infection or a COVID-19 vaccine. In many cases, you can treat these fevers at home without seeking medical care. Here’s how you can do so.6

To treat a fever at home, follow these steps:

  1. Take your temperature. If your temperature runs 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, then you have a fever.
  2. Stay and bed and let your body rest.
  3. Keep your body hydrated using water, iced tea, or diluted juice. This will help your body replenish the fluids it loses through sweating. If you find that you have trouble keeping fluids down because vomiting is another symptom, then try sucking on ice chips.
  4. Take over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen to reduce your fever. Tylenol (acetaminophen), Advil (ibuprofen), and Motrin (ibuprofen) are all safe to take for COVID-19 symptoms as long as you follow the recommended dosage. Learn more about taking Tylenol, and ibuprofen together. You should avoid taking these products if you have a conflicting condition that puts you at risk.7
  5. Stay cool. Remove extra layers of clothing and blankets unless you have chills.
  6. Take lukewarm baths or use cold compresses to bring your body temperature down. Avoid using ice or alcohol baths which can be dangerous.
  7. Consult your doctor if you have any concerns.

When to Seek Medical Help for a Fever

For children, call your child’s doctor if:8

  • Your child is listless, irritable, or vomits repeatedly
  • Your child has a fever after being left in a hot car
    • This requires immediate medical attention
  • Your child has a fever lasting longer than three days
  • Your child appears listless or has poor eye contact

For adults, call your doctor if:8

  • Your temperature is 103-degree Fahrenheit or higher
  • You experience any of these symptoms in addition to your fever
    • Severe headache
    • Unusual (and worsening) skin rash
    • Unusual sensitivity to bright light
    • Stiff neck and pain when you bend your head forward
    • Mental confusion o Persistent vomiting
    • Difficulty breathing or chest pain
    • Abdominal pain or pain when urinating
    • Convulsions or seizures

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SOURCES:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/first-aid/normal-body-temperature
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/how-to-take-temperature/art-20482578
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/air/reporting-deaths-illness/definitions-symptoms-reportable-illnesses.html
  4. https://www.emergencyhospitals.care/what-is-considered-a-low-grade-fever
  5. https://www.rd.com/list/what-a-fever-does-to-your-body
  6. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-break-a-fever
  7. https://www.uabmedicine.org/-/tylenol-vs-advil-vs-motrin-are-they-effective-and-safe-to-take-for-covid-19-symptoms
  8. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fever/symptoms-causes