Fever by itself is not an illness, but a symptom for a range of medical conditions. It also can be a side effect of some medications. Fever is one of the most common reasons that parents visit an emergency department with a child. 

Elevated body temperature also plays an important role in the body’s normal response to fighting infection. Most people consider 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (F) (37 degrees C) a healthy body temperature, but a person’s normal body temperature may vary a degree or more, and it fluctuates during the day (lower in the morning, higher at night).

Fever in an adult usually isn’t usually dangerous unless it registers 103 degrees F (39.4 degrees C) or higher.  If it is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, it may indicate a serious or life-threatening illness. Seek immediate medical attention if your symptoms include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the abdomen
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck that resists movement
  • Light hurts eyes
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Strange behavior, altered speech
  • Mental status changes, confusion, difficulty waking, extreme sleepiness
  • Rash (particularly if it looks like small bleeding spots under the skin)

Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. For more information on fever in a child, click here.

Anyone who thinks they're having a medical emergency should not hesitate to seek care. Federal law ensures that anyone who comes to the emergency department is treated and stabilized, and that their insurance provides coverage based on symptoms, not a final diagnosis. 

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Infections & Infectious Diseases Know When to Go Public Education