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Fever In Adults

What is a fever in adults?

A fever is an increase in body temperature above 100.4°F (38°C).

What are common causes of a fever in adults?

  • You may have a fever if you have an infection caused by a virus or bacteria. A fever helps your body fight the infection.

  • Inflammatory disorders, such as arthritis, can cause a fever.

  • People who go through severe withdrawal from alcohol or illegal drugs can get a fever.

  • There may be no known cause. This is called a fever of unknown origin. It occurs when you have a fever above 100.9˚F (38.3°C) for 3 weeks or more.

What other signs and symptoms may I have?

  • Chills and shivers

  • Muscle stiffness

  • Weight loss

  • Night sweats

  • Fever that comes and goes

  • Fever that is higher in the morning

How is a fever in adults diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask when your fever began and how high it was. He will ask about other symptoms and examine you for signs of infection. He will feel your neck for lumps and listen to your heart and lungs. Tell him if you recently had surgery or an infection. Tell him if you have any medical conditions, such as diabetes. Let him know if you have had contact with sick people. He may ask for a list of your medications or immunization records. You may also need the following:

  • Blood and urine tests: A sample of your blood or urine is sent to the lab to check for an infection.

  • Imaging tests: If blood and urine tests do not explain the cause of your fever, you may need imaging tests, such as an x-ray.

How is a fever in adults treated?

You may need the following:

  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: These help decrease your fever. They are available without a doctor's order. These medicines can cause stomach bleeding if not taken correctly. Ibuprofen can cause kidney damage. Do not take ibuprofen if you have kidney disease, an ulcer, or allergies to aspirin. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage.

  • Antibiotics: You may need this medicine if you have an infection caused by bacteria. Antibiotics help kill the bacteria. Take your medicine until it is gone, even if you feel better.

How can I manage my symptoms?

You can do the following for comfort:

  • Take a bath in cool or lukewarm water.

  • Wrap an ice pack in a small towel or wet a washcloth with cool water. Place the ice pack or wet washcloth on your forehead or the back of your neck.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have abdominal pain or feel bloated.

  • You have nausea or vomiting.

  • You have pain or burning when you urinate, or you have pain in your back.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your fever does not go away or gets worse even after treatment.

  • You have a stiff neck and a bad headache.

  • You are confused. You may not be able to think clearly or remember things like you normally do.

  • Your heart beats faster than normal even after treatment.

  • You have shortness of breath or chest pain when you breathe.

  • You urinate very small amounts or not at all.

  • Your skin, lips, or nails turn blue.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.