Elevated temperature isn’t always a sign that something’s wrong. Although 98.6oF has been considered normal for years, many healthy people walk around with a temperature a degree or so above or below average. A recent study has concluded that normal body temperature may range from 97oF to 100oF.

Body temperature even fluctuates throughout the day. It’s usually lowest in the morning and highest in the late afternoon and evening. Where you measure your temperature also makes a difference. Rectal readings are usually more accurate and read a degree higher than oral readings.

Taking your temperature by mouth after you drink a hot liquid like soup or tea can mislead you into thinking you have a fever when you don’t. Other factors that can temporarily affect your temperature include:

  • Wearing too much clothing (if you’re over-dressed enough to raise your body temperature).
  • Exercise.
  • Hot, humid weather.
  • Hormones (increased progesterone levels increase body temperature, so women’s basal body temperature increases following ovulation).

If you’ve ruled out other factors and your temperature is higher than 99oF, you might have a fever. If your temperature is higher than 100oF, you definitely have a fever.

Typically, in an adult, if having a fever causes no harm or discomfort, it may require no treatment. But if the fever is making you uncomfortable or goes over 104oF (102oF in the elderly) you should treat it.

Self-Care Tips

  • Drink fruit juice, water, and soft drinks.
  • Take a sponge bath with warm (about 70oF) water. (Sponging with alcohol has no advantage and often makes people feel ill, because of alcohol’s pungent odor).
  • Take the appropriate dose of aspirin or acetaminophen for your age every 3 or 4 hours. [Note: Do not give aspirin or any medication containing salicylates to a child 19 years of age or younger unless directed by a physician, due to its association with Reye’s Syndrome, a potentially fatal condition.]
  • Get plenty of bed rest.
  • Don’t wear too many clothes or use too many blankets.
  • Don’t do heavy exercise.

Questions to Ask

Is the fever accompanied by any of the following?

  • Seizure
  • Listlessness
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Stiff neck
  • Excessive irritability
  • Confusion
  • Inability to be comforted

Yes: Seek Emergency Care


Is the fever accompanied by any of the following?

  • Ear pain
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Urinary pain, burning or frequency

Yes: See Doctor


Does the fever occur in a child less than 2 months old?

Yes: See Doctor


In an adult, does the fever exceed 104oF, (102oF in an elderly person), or has it lasted more than 4 days despite efforts to reduce the fever?

Yes: See Doctor


Has the person recently had surgery or does the person have a chronic illness, such as heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, cancer or diabetes?
Yes: Call Doctor

Does the fever occur in a baby less than 6 months old?
Yes: Call Doctor

Has the fever done any of the following?

  • Gone away for more than 24 hours and then come back
  • Come soon after a visit to a foreign country
  • Come after having a DTP or MMR shot and is present with dizziness

Yes: Call Doctor

In a child, does the fever over 101oF or (102oF rectally) without decreasing in 48 hours despite efforts to reduce the fever?
Yes: Call Doctor

Provide Self-Care

Healthy Self: The Guide to Self-Care and Wise Consumerism

© American Institute for Preventive Medicine

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021