Table of Contents
- Understanding Fever
- Causes of Fever
- Fever’s Effects
- Infants and Children with a Fever
- Tips for Getting Rid of a Fever
- When to Seek Medical Help
If you have ever had a high fever, you know you want it over as soon as possible.
That feeling of alternating hot and cold, the clammy skin – no one wants to feel bad for long.
It is helpful to understand what could be causing your fever, as well as ways to lower your fever naturally, without having to leave your comfortable bed.
Our guide gives you all the information you need to start feeling better quickly.
Fever is your body’s natural defense against microbes, so it is not necessarily a bad thing when you get one.
It tells you that your immune system is hard at work fighting infection.
Most fevers are harmless, and letting them run their course is often your best treatment.
But, sometimes, you want to lower a fever quickly for a variety of reasons.
Our natural remedies can help you feel better soon, or treat a child who may be sick.
When you have a fever, this is a sign of something else happening inside your body.
A high temperature typically tells you your body is fighting an infection of some kind.
While a high fever can be uncomfortable, you may not need any medical treatment at all, depending on what is causing the spike in temperature.
For most adults, a fever is not concerning, unless it lasts several days or is accompanied by other, more severe symptoms.
The most concerning fevers are those in infants and children.
When children have a fever, it can sometimes become quite high and can be accompanied by poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, fussiness, lethargy, and other symptoms that should be treated quickly.
What is considered normal body temperature varies.
Your average temperature likely changes throughout the day, and with activity level.
Also, your age and overall health play a role in your average temperature.
Even your clothing and the environmental temperature can impact your normal body temperature.
A fever is an internal body temperature that is higher than normal for the individual.
Your normal body temperature may be anywhere between 97.5°F (36.4°C) and 99.5°F (37.5°C), so most medical professionals consider anything above 100.4°F (38°C) a fever.
Because we measure temperature differently in infants and children, it is important to know what is considered a fever for them, as well.
If measured orally, a fever is anything above 99.5°F (37.5°C) for children.
If measured rectally, the fever point is 100.4°F (38°C), and if measured under the arm, it is 99°F (37.2°C) for children.
Fever often causes the skin to feel warm and appear flushed, and the person may sweat or feel chilled.
Thirst is also a common indicator of fever.
Depending on the cause of the fever, the sick person may also have other symptoms, like a stomach ache, sore throat, earache, rash, or body aches.
Causes of Fever
Fevers can have a number of causes.
Changes in body temperature can be triggered by physical activity, wearing heavy clothing, high humidity, certain medications, eating, and even a woman’s menstrual cycle.
These are not a cause for concern.
A fever that lasts more than a few hours, though, is usually caused by an infection, either from a virus or bacteria.
While most fevers do not last longer than a few days, it is important to monitor your fever and other symptoms to know how best to treat the underlying cause.
Infections of all sorts can cause fever, which is why it is important to note any other symptoms that may accompany the rise in body temperature.
Not all fevers are caused by infection, though.
Children can run a low-grade fever for a few days after receiving immunizations, and infants who are teething may have a slight fever, usually less than 100°F.
If you have a blood clot or deep vein thrombosis (DVT), you can also run a fever.
Some autoimmune and inflammatory disorders can cause fevers, too.
Diseases, known to cause fever include arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis, among others.
In addition, one of the first symptoms of cancer can be a fever.
Certain medications can raise body temperature, including antihistamines, seizure medications, and antibiotics.
Not all fevers can be explained, though, and if you have a fever that lasts for days or weeks with no other symptoms, this is categorized as a fever of undetermined origin.
Most fevers do not require treatment and are actually a helpful part of your immune system’s defense against pathogens.
Because viruses and bacteria thrive at normal body temperatures, when you have a fever, that is nature’s way of killing off the infection that is causing your illness.
Even mild infections can raise body temperature is small children, so this symptom is not always a cause for concern.
In general, a fever is an uncomfortable symptom that we must endure so that our immune system can do its job of fighting infection.
In most cases, it is best just to let a fever run its course, and allow your immune system to fight the infection naturally.
The most common side effect of a fever is feeling uncomfortable, irritable, or achy (4).
However, there are times when a fever should be monitored, and when intervention may be necessary.
If you or someone you care for has a fever, monitor it carefully, and talk with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
This is especially true for infants and small children.
A fever caused by infection will rarely go over 105°F (40.6°C).
If you or someone you are caring for has a high fever, be sure they are not overdressed, or that the room temperature is not too high, as this can raise body temperature as well.
Permanent damage to body or brain does not occur, generally, unless the fever exceeds 107.6°F (42°C).
Infants and Children with a Fever
For children, an infection is usually the cause of a fever.
Common childhood infections include viruses like the common cold, chickenpox, and upper respiratory infections.
These usually require little in the way of fever management.
Researchers estimate that children get over 10 million mild infections every year, including skin and throat infections.
Other, bacterial infections may need some treatment, as bacteria can spread and cause additional problems if left untreated.
Strep throat is caused by Streptococcus, and if this infection goes untreated, it can lead to rheumatic fever and heart damage.
This is why fevers in children should be carefully monitored, along with their other symptoms.
Fevers in infants are a little more concerning, and parents should always monitor any rise in body temperature in newborns and infants.
A rectal temperature reading over 100.4 °F should be brought to the attention of your pediatrician (5).
While the mild infection is not a cause for alarm, a high fever has the potential to cause more harm in those who are very small.
Be careful not to overdress an infant, especially one with a fever, as this can unnaturally elevate body temperature.
When a baby or small child has a fever, they can have what is known as a febrile seizure.
This can be quite frightening, but is usually over very fast and does not generally cause lasting damage to the child.
Febrile seizures are most common in children ages six months to five years (6).
If your child has a seizure associated with a fever, have them checked by your pediatrician, as there is a rare chance there may be a more serious cause.
Tips for Getting Rid of a Fever
If you or a family member has a fever, remember that fevers are an important part of fighting an infection.
Rather than reaching for over-the-counter medications or calling your doctor for a prescription, it is usually best to try to keep the fever in check and let it run its course.
Eliminating fever altogether means your body loses an important mechanism for fighting infection, so the goal is simply to keep the fever low enough that it is not concerning.
There are many natural ways to reduce a fever at home.
Remember to monitor your fever and other symptoms carefully.
Here are our favorite methods for reducing a fever naturally.
Resting is one of the most effective strategies for dealing with a fever or any type of infection.
If you are ill, try to get both plenty of sleep and rest while you are awake.
Resting helps your body heal and restore damaged cells.
When you sleep, your body releases hormones for new tissue growth, which can help you defend against infection.
While you sleep is also when your body creates new white blood cells, which are your immune system’s first line of defense against bacteria and viruses.
More white blood cells mean you can get better sooner.
Get plenty of rest, and sleep at least seven to nine hours a night while you have an infection.
Staying hydrated while you are sick is crucial.
Drinking plenty of fluids helps your body flush out toxins, and helps your systems perform their necessary functions for healing your infection.
Drinking water is best.
Coconut water is also excellent for dehydration, as it offers lots of electrolytes.
Herbal teas not only help with hydration but can also support the healing process.
For children, avoid too much sugar from fruit juice or other sweetened beverages, as bacteria tend to thrive on the glucose in these drinks.
Instead, dilute juice with water, or just give them water.
The same is true for sports drinks and other beverages high in sugar.
Be Gentle on Your Stomach
When you are sick, you often will not feel like eating too much.
This is normal, and should not be cause for concern unless it lasts several days.
When you do eat, opt for bland, mild foods that will not upset your stomach or cause nausea.
Avoid refined sugars, processed foods, and spicy foods.
Get Plenty of Probiotics
Eating foods rich in probiotics can help support your immune system while you are ill and heal your gut.
Since much of the work of your immune system takes place in your digestive tract, keeping it healthy is a constant priority.
When your immune system is compromised, such as when you have a fever, eating or taking probiotics can help you beat your infection sooner.
Drinking kombucha, eating miso soup, or nibbling on yogurt are all great ways to get probiotics naturally, and these can all help reduce your fever (7).
Try a Fever Bath
While you want to avoid a very hot bath while you have a fever, taking a bath with lukewarm water or having a sponge bath can help you reduce your fever.
Moderate temperatures are best, so also avoid icy cold water, which can cause shivering, as this will actually raise your temperature.
If you are achy, try adding Epsom salts to your bath, or a few drops of peppermint or lavender essential oils.
These all can help ease the side effects of fever, which often include sore muscles and joint pain.
A bath can also help you relax, which means you will rest better, too.
Avoid wearing too many clothes or covering up with too many blankets when you are feverish.
Bundling up can keep your fever high, or even make it rise higher.
Make sure the room temperature is comfortable and not too hot.
Even if you feel chilled, wear lightweight clothing, and try a single blanket, especially when sleeping.
Use Essential Oils
The properties found in several essential oils can be beneficial for reducing fever.
You can help dissipate heat by rubbing spearmint, eucalyptus, or chamomile essential oils on the skin.
Dilute about six drops of oil in one tablespoon of carrier oil and rub over your skin.
Focus on the bottoms of your feet and the nape of your neck.
One drop of chamomile in one ounce of carrier oil is very useful for infants.
Apply this to the bottoms of their feet.
Try Herbal Treatments
Herbs have been used for centuries to reduce fever and treat some of the underlying causes of infection.
The following are excellent herbal remedies for reducing fever and treating symptoms of infection, as well as boosting your immune system.
- Catnip can help break a fever associated with infection. Drink a tea brewed with this herb to promote sweating, which will help reduce fever. Catnip also relaxes you, which means you can rest easier.
- Echinacea provides support for your immune system and can help you get over the flu and colds faster. This herb stimulates the production of white blood cells, which are crucial for fighting infection.
- Elderflower, like catnip, can help break a fever, which is good when your body temperature gets uncomfortably high. Drink this as a tea.
- Elderberry syrup is becoming a popular herbal remedy because of its immune-boosting properties. If you have the flu, this is a great treatment to try.
- Lemon balm is not only a natural sedative, which can help you sleep well, but it can also help reduce your fever. Drink as a hot tea.
Use Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is another longstanding natural remedy for fever reduction.
Many believe it is effective for drawing out the fever.
Several popular methods include:
- Add one cup to your lukewarm bath water.
- Soak washcloths in one part vinegar and two parts water, then put on your stomach and/or forehead.
- Soak a washcloth in vinegar and wrap around your feet.
If your fever is uncomfortably high, is causing you distress, or it is not responding to other treatments, you may decide to seek medical help.
Before taking medications, check with your doctor.
If a child under three has a fever, call your pediatrician before giving any medicines.
Giving too much of an over-the-counter drug like acetaminophen for fever reduction is unfortunately too common, and many parents often give this medicine too frequently to reduce fevers.
Remember that fevers are normal, and it is also normal for body temperature to remain slightly elevated when you have an infection.
In other words, if you are sick, your temperature will not be normal.
Your fever is protecting your body.
Dropping your temperature just one or two degrees can often make you feel better, so focus on reducing, and not eliminating, your fever.
When to Seek Medical Help
While most fevers are mild and will resolve quickly, it is important to know when you should seek medical help.
These guidelines differ for adults and children.
If the person who has a fever has any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical help.
- Uncomfortable or listless, especially if the fever has already come down.
- A child cries but cannot produce tears.
- Fever symptoms return after they have dissipated.
- The sick person does not urinate for eight hours.
- Fevers, whether high or low-grade, that rise and return to normal for a week or more.
- Symptoms of obvious infection, such as a sore throat, diarrhea that lasts for more than one day, cough, earache, or vomiting.
- Any serious diseases or illness, like sickle cell anemia, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, or a heart problem.
- Has recently received an immunization.
For children, here are the guidelines for when to call your doctor.
- Younger than three months – A rectal temperature greater than 100.4 °F (38 °C).
- Three to twelve months – Oral temperature greater than 102.2 °F (39 °C).
- One to two years old – Any fever that lasts longer than 48 hours.
If any person, adult or child, has a fever over 105 °F (40.5 °C), seek immediate medical attention.
It can be hard to know when you are having an actual medical emergency involving a fever.
These are indicators that you should call 911.
Get immediate medical help if a child or adult has a fever and:
- Cannot be calmed down while crying;
- Cannot walk;
- Is confused;
- Cannot be roused from sleep easily, or at all;
- Is having trouble breathing;
- Has a severe headache;
- Has a blue tint to nails, tongue, or lips;
- Has a stiff neck;
- Cannot move any extremity;
- Has seizures;
- Bruises or a rash appear suddenly.
In most cases, fevers are a natural and normal response to minor infection.
Fevers are your body’s way of fighting infection, so allowing it to run its course is usually the best strategy.
Fevers let you know your immune system is working effectively to help you heal.
Fevers are the byproduct of some underlying cause, and in most cases, that is a bacterial or viral infection.
Anything above 100.4 °F is considered a fever by most doctors, but everyone’s normal body temperature varies slightly from the standard 98.6 °F.
If you or someone you are caring for has a fever, they are likely to feel warm to the touch, may be flushed, and may sweat.
Monitor fevers closely to avoid extreme spikes in temperature.
Also, monitor other symptoms, as they are likely to tell you and your doctor more about the underlying cause of the fever.
While many fevers do not need to be treated, because they are the result of a mild infection, some bacterial fevers should be treated or they can cause other, more significant problems.
Getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of water, and eating a bland diet rich in probiotics are excellent strategies for dealing with a fever.
Other natural treatments including taking a bath in lukewarm water, using essential oils, being sure not to overdress, using apple cider vinegar, and using herbs to make teas.
While most fevers are mild and will resolve after a few days, it is important to monitor fevers in the very young, the very old, and those with immune system problems.
For these groups, infections can spread or worsen quickly, and high fevers can be harmful to infants and young children.
When in doubt, talk with your doctor or pediatrician about your fever or other symptoms.
It may be necessary to treat your infection with antibiotics or to consider conventional treatment for some of your more troublesome symptoms.