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Fever 101: When the Fever Hits

Wednesday, January 16, 2019 8:27 AM

We all get fevers occasionally. But how do we know when a fever is just a nuisance or a bigger concern? Ernest Wang, MD, Emergency Medicine at NorthShore, offers insight on what we should know about fever.


  • Defense Mode: A fever is not an illness, but simply your body’s way of fighting infections, whether it’s bacteria-related or a virus such as the flu.
  • Medication: You can take over-the-counter meds like acetaminophen or ibuprofen but they don’t cure a fever - they only provide short-term relief. Always remember to follow proper dosage on the label. For babies, toddlers and youngsters, check with their pediatrician.
  • Feed the Fever: The flu and other viral ailments can cause dehydration so it’s important to drink plenty of fluids—water, broth and electrolyte replacement drinks.
  • Easy does it: Going about your daily routine or exercising will not make that fever go away. You need sleep so your body can rest and take time to strengthen your immune system.
  • Fever pitch: The degree of fever by itself is not dangerous, and high fever does not cause brain damage. However, fever can be a sign of a serious problem if it’s associated with other symptoms. If your temperature is 103°F or higher for more than three days and includes symptoms like headache, chest pain, vomiting, body aches and rash, call your doctor. The same applies to babies, toddlers and kids.
  • The kid factor: Don’t look at the temperature. Look at your child. Are they still eating, playing and looking generally well? Those are positive signs. On the flip side, do they look lethargic, have no appetite or look ill? If yes, then call your doctor.  
  • Protection: Be up-to-date with your vaccinations. While the flu shot is never 100% effective, it’s still important to get one as it can help minimize the length and severity of the flu bug.