Fevers are a part of your body’s natural defense against infections, viruses, and germs. On their own, fevers are typically harmless. In fact, most fevers are beneficial and in most cases it’s unnecessary to try to break the fever.
The main reason to treat a fever is to decrease discomfort. Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can safely bring a fever down at home. Here are a few ways to safely break a fever at home.
Treating A Fever
If you or your child are experiencing discomfort from a fever, there are a number of safe ways to break it, including:
- Rest: In most cases, a fever is your body’s natural response to an infection or virus. Resting is one of the most important things you can do to help your body recover more quickly. Additionally, physical activity often raises your body temperature. Resting and avoiding activity can help to naturally reduce your body temperature.
- Staying hydrated: While staying hydrated is always important, a fever can cause dehydration from fluid loss. It’s important to drink plenty of water when treating a fever.
- Staying cool: Taking measures to lower your body temperature is important for breaking a fever. Unless you have chills, remove extra layers of clothing and only cover up with a light blanket or sheet. You can also take a sponge bath using lukewarm water or apply a damp cloth to the forehead, armpit, and groin areas.
- Taking an over-the-counter medication: You may try using common over-the-counter medications to reduce your fever. Drugs like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help lower a fever. Acetaminophen can be safely used to treat a fever in children as young as two months old. Aspirin should never be given to children to treat their fever, but is safe to use for adults.
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What You Shouldn’t Do To Treat A Fever
There are many touted home remedies for breaking a fever. Some of these remedies are not only unhelpful, but can even be dangerous. Here are a few things you should never try when treating a fever.
- Take an ice bath: An ice bath may temporarily lower your body temperature but will also cause shivering, which is your body’s natural response to cold, and will actually increase your temperature. Additionally, exposing your skin to very cold temperatures can cause damage.
- “Starve” a fever: The old saying goes, “feed a cold, starve a fever.” However, this advice should never be followed. While a person with a fever may have less of an appetite, food and nutrients are still necessary to effectively fight the infection.
- “Sweat out” a fever: Another common tale is that of “sweating out” a fever. While it’s important not to underdress—especially when experiencing chills—overdressing someone with a fever only helps to further raise their body temperature and should be avoided. Ideally, blankets and clothing should be light and breathable, allowing for body heat to escape.
When Is A Fever Dangerous?
Usually, a fever can be treated at home, often without medication. However, a fever can be dangerous, especially for infants. Infants who are under 3 months old with a temperature of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit must be seen by a physician. Meanwhile, infants between 3 and 6 months with a temperature over 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit should also be seen by a doctor. This is because infants can have serious illnesses that cause fevers which may require testing and proper treatment.
You should see your doctor if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms along with a fever:
- Vomiting or diarrhea lasting longer than 12 hours or contains blood.
- Sore throat and headache lasting longer than 48 hours.
- Swollen lymph nodes, glands, or tonsils.
- An earache lasting longer than 12 hours.
These may be signs of serious infections of illness that may require treatment by your doctor.
Additionally, in rare situations, the following symptoms can be signs of life-threatening medical conditions and should be treated as an emergency:
- Chest pain and difficulties breathing.
- Stiffness and pain in your neck when looking down.
- A burning or sharp pain when urinating and stomach or back pain.
- Mental confusion and seizures.
If you or a family member are experiencing these symptoms along with a fever, seek medical help right away.
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Medications to Treat A Fever
Often, over-the-counter medications can safely be used to treat a fever. However, if you see a doctor, they may prescribe additional medications, such as antibiotics, to treat the underlying infection causing your fever.
When prescribed medications, always take them as instructed by your doctor or pharmacist. Never double-up or prematurely discontinue taking the medicine, even if your fever has already lifted. Doing so may be dangerous or prolong the length of your illness.
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