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Fever is often the body’s natural response to fighting infection or other medical conditions. If you — or your child — has a high temperature, the immune system is likely fighting off an infection.

While most fevers are caused by infections, there are other factors, such as heat exhaustion, inflammatory conditions, certain medications and other medical issues that can trigger a fever.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater to be a fever. But that shouldn’t be considered a strict guideline. Your normal body temperature can vary. Time of day can influence your body temperature. It tends to be lower in the morning and higher in the evening.

The method of taking your temperature can also contribute to fluctuations. A temperature taken rectally or in the ear tends to be about 1 degree Fahrenheit higher than an oral thermometer. A skin thermometer will be about 1 degree Fahrenheit lower than an oral temperature.

A low-grade fever — between 99.5 F and 100.3 F — can be a sign that your immune system is active. With a mild fever, be sure to get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids. Avoiding fever medicine like ibuprofen or acetaminophen may be a good idea, to allow the low-grade fever to fight off microbes or an infectious disease.

In addition to a high temperature, fever symptoms include:

  • Chills, shivering and shaking
  • Headache and body aches
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Sweating
  • Skin that’s hot to the touch
  • Flushed complexion in light-skinned individuals
  • Racing heart beat

When to Seek Medical Attention

While most fevers can be managed at home, there are situations when you should seek medical attention.

  • High fever in an infant: If your child is under 2 months of age and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 F or higher, seek emergency medical care. In other cases, dealing with a fever in a child depends on age and the temperature.
  • Severe or persistent fever: A temperature above 104 F that is not responding to over-the-counter medicines warrants immediate medical attention.
  • Difficulty breathing: If you are having trouble breathing or are experiencing shortness of breath along with a fever, it may be a severe respiratory infection. Seek treatment immediately.
  • Seizure: A febrile seizure is a convulsion caused by a fever. This type of seizure can occur at any age but is more common in children, and most often occurs within 24 hours of the onset of a fever. This may be the first sign that your child is ill. If your child is having a seizure, you can help by making sure your child is safe and offering comfort. Make sure to contact your child’s physician to have your child evaluated as soon as possible after a febrile seizure.

Norton Now includes same-day care options so you can get the care you need, when you need it and where you need it. Norton Community Medical Associates primary care offices are located across the Louisville and Southern Indiana area. Save your spot in line at a Norton Immediate Care Center or visit a Norton Prompt Care clinic for treatment of minor injuries or illnesses.

Use Norton eCare video visits or just answer a few questions online from anywhere in Kentucky or Indiana for care without coming into the office. Your provider can order drive-thru lab testing for you at Norton Healthcare Express Services if it’s needed.

Fever Managing Guidelines for Adults

A fever in an infant or child typically requires different approaches, depending on age and temperature. Follow these guidelines for managing a fever in an adult:

  • Resting: Allow your body to rest and recover.
  • Staying hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids, such as water, herbal teas and clear broths.
  • Staying cool: Wear lightweight clothing. A cool compress on your forehead also might help lower your temp.
  • Over-the-counter medications: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help reduce fever and relieve discomfort. Make sure to follow the recommended dosage and advice from your doctor.
  • Sponge bath: If your fever is high and not responding to other measures, a lukewarm shower or sponge bath may be helpful.

Possible Causes of a Fever

Viral Infection

  • Common cold: Often caused by rhinoviruses
  • Influenza (flu): Caused by influenza viruses
  • Dengue fever: Transmitted by mosquitoes
  • Chickenpox: Caused by the varicella zoster virus
  • Mononucleosis: Caused by the Epstein-Barr virus
  • Yellow fever: Spread by infected mosquitos and very rare in the United States

Bacterial Infection

  • Urinary tract infection: Bacterial infection affecting the urinary system
  • Pneumonia: Infection of the lungs, commonly caused by bacteria
  • Typhoid fever: Caused by Salmonella typhi bacteria
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever: Tick-borne disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. Removing a tick safely is an important step in addressing tick-borne diseases.

Parasitic Infection

  • Malaria: Transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes
  • Toxoplasmosis: Caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii

Inflammatory Conditions

  • Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune condition affecting the joints
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Conditions like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis

Autoimmune Diseases

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus: A chronic autoimmune disease


  • Some cancers can cause persistent or intermittent fever, especially in advanced stages.
  • Heatstroke: Caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures

Medication-induced fever

  • Some medications can cause fever as a side effect.

Norton Now: Care When You Need It

  • Get medical care when and where it works for you.
    • Norton Community Medical Associates primary care is your medical home. More than 35 locations across the Louisville area and Southern Indiana means there’s an office close to home, work or school. Your primary care physician knows you and your health and performs annual checkups to stay ahead of any emerging conditions. Our doctors and nurse practitioners connect you to the full Norton Healthcare system, giving you and your family easy access to the area’s leading specialty physicians.
    • More than 15 Norton Immediate Care Centers offer treatment for minor illnesses and injuries. Reserve your spot in line and we’ll text you when it’s time to check in. All Norton Immediate Care Centers are equipped with X-ray machines.
    • Norton Prompt Care clinics have same-day appointments available when you need care for yourself or your family. All locations offer extended weekday and weekend hours. Many are located within Walgreens stores.
    • Norton eCare allows you to visit with a provider via secure video or by simply answering questions online about your symptoms.
    • Emergency care is available for a very serious illness or injury that puts your life in danger. Get treatment 24/7 at nine locations in Louisville and Southern Indiana, including three locations for kids.
  • Medicaid, Medicare and most major commercial insurance plans are accepted.
  • Get test results, renew prescriptions, communicate with your health care provider, get notified if an earlier appointment becomes available and more with your free Norton MyChart account.

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