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When should you go to the doctor for a fever: When to Seek Care for a Fever

When to Seek Care for a Fever

A fever (defined as a temperature of 100.4°F or higher) happens when your body is trying to fight off an infection or your immune system becomes activated. The increase in your body temperature signals that something is not quite right with you.

Sometimes a fever comes and goes quickly, other times it lingers, and your temperature fluctuates over time.

Below is a breakdown of when you should contact your doctor or health care provider if you have a fever:


Numbers that are cause for concern:

  • 105°F – Go to the emergency room
  • 103°F or higher – Contact your health care provider
  • 101°F or higher – If you’re immunocompromised or over 65 years of age, and are concerned that you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, contact your health care provider

Situations that are cause for concern:

  • if you have a fever and it doesn’t go down after taking over-the-counter medications, like ibuprofen
  • if you’ve been in hot temperatures and develop a fever, it could be a sign of a heat stroke
  • if you’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you could be at risk for the virus

Call your doctor for medical advice if you experience any of these situations.


Call your child’s pediatrician under the following circumstances:

  • 0-3 months – Your child has a temperature of 100.4°F or higher, with or without symptoms
  • 3-6 months – Your child has a temperature of 100.4°F or higher, plus irritable behavior/sleepiness OR a temperature of 102°F or higher
  • 6-24-months – Your child has a temperature of 102°F for longer than a day AND symptoms such as a rash, cough or diarrhea
  • 2+ years – Your child has a temperature of 100.4°F or higher AND symptoms such as a rash, fatigue, headache, stiff neck, prolonged diarrhea or vomiting

Any age:

  • Your child has a seizure
  • Your child has a temperature of 103°F or higher
  • Any fever that starts after your child has been in hot temperatures (could be a sign of heat stroke)
  • Your child’s fever doesn’t go down after taking over-the-counter medications, like ibuprofen
  • Your child has been in contact with someone who has COVID-19

Next Steps & Resources: 

  • To make an appointment with a doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our physician directory to make an appointment online.
  • Register for telemedicine through HMH Care NOW.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care

When to See a Doctor for a Fever

For most adults, having a temperature above 100.4°F is considered a fever. Most fevers can be managed at home and will start to improve within several days. Still, knowing when to speak with a medical provider for a fever can help you get the care you need and avoid complications. 

If you have a fever that won’t go down after several days of rest, have a temperature of 103°F or higher, or experience severe symptoms such as chest pain or difficulty breathing, it’s best to talk to your provider. Read on to learn more.

When to See a Doctor for Fever

Mild fevers can be treated at home. For fevers of 103°F or higher, adults should contact their medical provider or seek emergency care.  

Additional symptoms that warrant more immediate medical attention are:

  • A fever that does not improve after three days of rest and home care
  • Severe headache
  • Severe throat swelling
  • Unusual skin rash
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Stiff neck (or pain when you bend your head forward)
  • Mental confusion
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain when urinating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Extreme irritability
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sensory changes
  • Seizure

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What’s Considered a Fever?

One factor that helps distinguish a fever from normal variations in body temperature is age. 


Any elevated temperature in an infant or child younger than three months old is considered a fever.


A child’s temperature can be read using different types of thermometers. The below temperatures are considered a fever in children three months and older:

  • 100°F via oral thermometer
  • 100.4°F via rectal thermometer
  • 99°F axillary temperature (taken in the armpit)


Any temperature above 100.4°F is considered a fever in adults.

Common Fever Causes

A fever can be a sign of many conditions. Some of the most common causes of a fever include:

  • A viral or bacterial infection
  • Medicines (including antibiotics and blood pressure and anti-seizure medications)
  • Heat illness
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Some vaccines

Additional Possible Symptoms

A fever is a symptom of a condition, rather than an illness itself. Depending on the type of illness you have, you may experience other symptoms such as:

  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Irritability

Medical Treatment

Many fevers can be treated at home with rest, fluids, and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. If you need to seek treatment from a medical provider, depending on the underlying cause of your fever, they might recommend one of the following treatments:

  • Antibiotics or antivirals
  • Other prescription medications
  • Intravenous medications
  • Fluid replacement

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Fever Risks

Dehydration is a common risk of a fever. That’s why it’s important to rest and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of non-caffeinated liquids (such as water, herbal tea, and electrolyte-based fluids) when you have a fever. 

Additional risks are possible in people with certain medical conditions, including diabetes and cancer. If you’re immunocompromised and have a fever, contact your medical provider for guidance.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can access online urgent care with K Health?

Check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes.  

K Health’s AI-powered app is based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is too long to have a fever?

Some fevers last longer than others. If you have a fever that doesn’t begin to improve within three days, contact your medical provider for care.

When should a patient see the doctor for a fever?

Most fevers can be treated at home with rest and drinking plenty of fluids. However, speak with a medical provider if you have: a fever that doesn’t go down in several days, a fever of 103°F or higher, or certain symptoms (including chest pain, shortness of breath, or severe throat swelling). If your infant has any elevated temperature, speak with their pediatrician as soon as possible.

What do you do when a fever won’t go down?

A mild fever may take a few days to go down on its own. In the meantime, get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids (avoid coffee and other caffeinated beverages). You can also take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) to help the fever go down. If your fever doesn’t improve within three days, contact your medical provider.

Should you go to the hospital if you have a fever?

You don’t need to go to the hospital for a mild fever. But if you have a fever of 103°F or higher, have a fever that won’t go down after several days, or are experiencing additional symptoms, seek medical treatment.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions,
and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

  • Fever. (2016).

High temperature? When should you see a doctor? — Into-Sana

Causes of fever

An increase in body temperature is most often a protective reaction of the body to infections, it contributes to the death of pathogenic microorganisms, accelerating the response of the immune system. It is for this reason that doctors do not recommend taking antipyretics if the temperature is subfebrile, i.e. does not exceed 38C – you need to give the body the opportunity to “fight” the infection.

At higher numbers, medical temperature control (taking antipyretics) is necessary. This is due to the fact that high temperature significantly increases the load on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems and can contribute to the development of shock-like conditions and convulsive syndrome (especially in children).

Rarely, fever occurs in the absence of inflammatory processes in the body. This can be observed in violation of the processes of thermoregulation in the brain due to its focal lesions, with hormonal disorders (hyperthyroidism), taking certain medications, poisoning with certain substances, neurosis, systemic diseases of the connective tissue, tumor processes, etc.

How to respond to elevated temperature?

  • If fever is combined with other symptoms of SARS (runny nose, sore throat, cough, etc. ), self-treatment is possible, the main points of which are bed rest and heavy drinking. When the temperature rises above 38C, it is necessary to take an antipyretic.
  • Preservation of elevated temperature on the 5th-7th day of acute respiratory viral infections or a repeated increase in temperature after several days of its normalization is a reason to see a doctor. This situation most often indicates a complication.
  • With an increase in body temperature against the background of the absence of symptoms characteristic of SARS, a visit to the doctor is mandatory.

It is necessary to seek medical help immediately (within 24 hours) in the following situations:

  • Body temperature 39-40C, headaches, muscle aches, pain when moving the eyes (suspicion of influenza).
  • High body temperature against the background of symptoms that are not characteristic of a common cold: shortness of breath, profuse sweating at night, pain when breathing and coughing, pain in the lumbar region, pain when swallowing, etc.
  • Increased body temperature after medical manipulations and operations.
  • High temperature in a person who returned from another country.

Call an ambulance in the following situations:

  • High body temperature, severe headaches, aggravated by bringing the chin to the chest. In this case, it is necessary to exclude meningitis.
  • Fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. These symptoms are characteristic of intestinal infections.
  • Fever, acute abdominal pain. These signs are characteristic of acute surgical pathology – acute appendicitis, acute cholecystitis, pancreatitis, etc.

Routinely (within a week from the moment of occurrence) it is necessary to consult a general practitioner in case of subfebrile body temperature (37-38C) in the absence of other pronounced symptoms. A condition in which subfebrile body temperature persists for a long time, and the reasons for this increase are unclear, is called a fever of unknown origin. In this situation, it is very important to find the cause. It must be understood that diagnostic search in some of these cases can be difficult.

In all situations of fever, you should contact a general practitioner – an internist. It is this specialist who will assess the situation as a whole and determine the shortest path to recovery.

Be healthy!

First aid procedure for elevated body temperature

Subfebrile temperature (up to 38°C)

1. Undress the child.

2. Wipe with a damp cloth (slightly above room temperature).

3. Do not use antipyretics.

Febrile temperature (above 38°C)

1. Ensure rest, put to bed.

2. Drink plenty of sweet tea, fruit drink.

3. In case of chills, warm the child (warm blanket, hot tea, heating pad to the limbs).

4. Give an antipyretic.

5. At a temperature of 39.5-40°C, the child should not be wrapped.

6. If the temperature is above 40.4°C, give an antipyretic and seek emergency help.

Specialist comments:

The normal temperature is not 36.6°C, as is often believed, but 36.0-37.0°C, in the evening it is slightly higher than in the morning. Body temperature rises with many diseases. The benefits of elevated temperature are a signal of illness, a way to fight pathogens

(many bacteria and viruses stop multiplying at temperatures above 37-38°C), it is a stimulus for the immune response, since a number of protective factors (including interferon) are released only at temperatures above 38°C.

By lowering the fever, we do not affect the cause of the disease, but we can improve the child’s well-being.
Subfebrile temperature (up to 38°C) may occur with overheating, with a viral or bacterial infection. Taking antipyretics in such cases is not worth it if the child’s well-being does not suffer. At a “febrile” temperature (above 38 ° C), vasoconstriction, increased muscle contractions (hence chills, tremors), and in young children convulsions (the so-called “febrile” convulsions) are noted.
When the temperature rises to 39.5-40.0°C, the skin vessels dilate (the skin turns red), such a child should not be wrapped up. Fever is dangerous with spasm of skin vessels – this is malignant hyperthermia.

temperature above 40.4°C;

Mottled, marbled skin;

extremities cold to the touch;

It is necessary to call an emergency and be sure to give an antipyretic, preferably in a solution inside.

Children should be given antipyretics at temperatures above 38.0 ° C, but if the child does not tolerate high temperatures, worries, cries, or has seizures at elevated temperatures, antipyretics are given at temperatures above 37.5 ° C. After giving an antipyretic, you can not calm down: be sure to consult a doctor (for recovery, you will need to take other drugs).
The main antipyretic recommended for children is PARACETAMOL (acetaminophen). It does not have a pronounced side effect, has an anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect, relieves discomfort.