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  » First Aid  »  Fever
The average body temperature is about 98.6F (37C) when measured with an oral thermometer. Rectal temperatures will generally be about 1F (1.3 to 2.7C) higher than oral temperatures. All persons' normal temperatures will be about 1/2 to 1F (1.3 to 2.7C) higher in the late afternoon than in the morning. However, an elevation of more than a degree or two over the normal range is usually a sign of infection or other illness. The fever may be accompanied by other symptoms or, less commonly, the only symptom.

Most fevers disappear in 1 or 2 days and require no special treatment other than taking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and perhaps aspirin or acetaminophen to relieve symptoms. Any high fever (103F [39.4C] or greater) or one that is accompanied by recurrent shaking or chills, or one that lasts for more than a day, should be evaluated by a doctor.

  • Call the doctor if a very young baby (less than 2 months old) has a fever of more than 101F (38.3C), as fewer during this period is unusual.
  • A child with a high fever should be lightly dressed and uncovered or covered only with a light blanket.
  • If the doctor approves, small amounts of acetaminophen may be given to a child, but follow instructions as to dosage. Aspirin should not be given to children with viral illnesses (flu, chickenpox, etc.) as this may increase the risk of Reye's syndrome, a potentially life-threatening disease affecting the brain and liver.
  • If a child's temperature rises to 103F (39.4C) he should be sponged with lukewarm water, allowing the water to evaporate from the skin surface. Alternatively, the child should be placed in a tub of lukewarm water. Check the temperature every 25 minutes; continue until the child's temperature falls below 102F (38.9C) (do not sponge the child with alcohol, which has potentially harmful side effects; water is safer and just as effective).
  • If the fever does not respond or the child has convulsions, consult a doctor.
  • A fever accompanied by severe headache, nausea and vomiting, a stiff neck, change in alertness, and hypersensitivity to light may be a sign of meningitis and should be investigated promptly by a doctor.
  • Any fever not associated with the usual coldlike or flulike symptoms should be discussed with your doctor.