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At what temperature is a fever cause for an adult to see a doctor or go to the emergency room?
If you look online for information about what temperature constitutes a fever high enough to seek medical treatment for an adult, you'll find a ton of information about fevers in children and little about fever in adults, much of which is conflicting. At what temperature of fever should an adult automatically seek medical care and at what temperature should they go to the ER instead of just making a doctor appointment?
For adults it's much easier to go based on how you feel rather than the temperature itself. Keep in mind that a fever is the body's natural way of fighting infection and is really not something to be afraid of on its own unless it's high-grade, resistant to medicine, or long-lasting.
Anything below 39.5C (102F) is a moderate fever and unless it's been longer than 2 days or it doesn't come down with medication, then there's no need to be seen (assuming there are no other worrying symptoms).
Anything higher than that and below 40.5C (105F) is really your call. If you're feeling miserable but medicine helps then you might want to make an appointment with your doctor. If you're feeling extremely ill and medicine doesn't bring it down enough to function somewhat normally then you might want to go to the ER.
I think generally anything over 40.5C (105F) should be treated as urgent and warrants a trip to the ER regardless of how you're feeling.
As a registered nurse who worked in the Emergency Department for over 15 years, I would sincerely ask that you not run into the ED after only a day or two of fever...unless you had sudden onset of a very high fever of 102 F or above. As Aime stated, your body cranks up the heat to kill off foreign invaders (bacteria, virus, etc.) so some fever (during an illness) means your body is fighting the way it should! When an adult's temperature is above 101 F they will usually feel miserable but this isn't usually a sign to run to your doctor or the ED! It's a sign that you should take care of yourself...get extra rest... drink more water (help flush those toxins out of your body)...and take Tylenol or Advil to help control the fever. For some people Tylenol will work best and for others it may be Advil (ibuprofen) that works best.
Take some active responsibility for your health. Unless you have a chronic illness, your body can usually fight off a virus if you care for yourself. What commonly happens is that people try to continue on with their normal lives (going to work, taking care of the kids, going out with friends, travel, etc.) and, after a couple days of that daily grind, your body doesn't have the "reserve" immune system it needs to get rid of the foreign bugs and they start to get the best of you!! So after 2-3 days you feel even worse and think "I'd better go to the doctor (or ED)".
If you have rested & taken good care of yourself for 3-5 days and you are still running a fever over 101 F (1-2 hours AFTER you have taken Tylenol or Advil), then call a triage nurse and ask for advice. Most hospitals, clinics, and urgent cares have those nurses available now for everyone.
Another common mistake that adults make when they have a fever (or their children have a fever) is to "bundle" up. This traps the heat inside the body. If you have the chills, then you should cover up but if you don't, then let the heat escape ... especially from the hot spots of the body which are your neck, your armpits, and your groin area. You can also lower a fever by putting cool cloth in those areas (towels rinsed in cold water work well). It doesn't feel good but it does work well in most cases.
This is NOT medical advice. It is basic triage nursing advice that I have given over the telephone many, many times while working in the Emergency Department.
Try to stay healthy, get plenty of rest, reduce stress....and your body can normally fight off mild infections. :-)
Thank you so much! I have lupus and frequently get fevers above 102 and I have a few acquaintances who panic every time my fever is their idea of high. I can't go running to the ER every time my illness just does what it does!
If you know the cause of your fever then you are one step up on many others & probably know what works for you. A continuous temp (above 102) for several days is cause for concern if it doesn't come down with anti-fever meds. Good luck!!
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