Fever is the body’s natural response to infection or inflammation, serving as a defence mechanism to help fight off harmful pathogens.

Generally, a low-grade fever is not a cause for alarm. However, it’s important to manage body temperatures of 102°F and above by seeking medical intervention.

What is a Fever?

A fever, also known as pyrexia or elevated body temperature, is a condition characterised by a higher-than-normal body temperature.

It is a natural physiological response indicating that the body’s immune system is working to fight off infection or inflammation.

The average body temperature ranges between 97°F (36.1°C) and 99°F (37.2°C).

However, when the body detects a foreign invader such as bacteria, viruses or other pathogens, the hypothalamus (a region in the brain responsible for regulating body temperature) raises the body’s set point, causing the temperature to increase.

This elevated temperature creates an inhospitable environment for the pathogens, enhances immune cell function and helps accelerate the body’s healing process.

Symptoms Associated with Fever

Alongside a raised body temperature, fever may be accompanied by additional symptoms such as:

  • Sweating
  • Shivering or chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • General feeling of discomfort (malaise)


Fever can be caused by various factors, such as:

  • Infections: Bacterial, viral and fungal infections are the most common causes. Influenza, the common cold, urinary tract infections and pneumonia are just a few examples.
  • Inflammation: Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus or Crohn’s disease, can cause fever due to the body’s immune system attacking healthy tissues.
  • Medications: Certain medications, including antibiotics and drugs used to treat high blood pressure, can cause fever as a side effect.
  • Heat exhaustion: Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion, causing fever.
  • Immunisations: Some vaccines can cause a mild fever as the body responds to the introduced antigens.
  • Pulmonary embolism: Fever is recognised as an initial symptom associated with pulmonary embolism.
  • Food poisoning: Food poisoning, caused by consuming contaminated food or drinks, can lead to fever. This occurs as the body’s immune response to harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or toxins raises the body temperature.


Your doctor will typically use a thermometer to measure your body temperature and determine if a fever is present.

He may also ask you about additional symptoms that you may be experiencing and perform a physical examination.

In some cases, further tests such as blood tests or imaging may be necessary to identify the underlying cause of your fever.

Treatment Options

A mild fever without further complications normally doesn’t require medical attention, with sufficient rest and fluid intake often being adequate to help the body recover.

However, when a fever presents alongside mild symptoms, such as discomfort or dehydration, taking proactive steps to manage the elevated body temperature can be useful.

Consider the following interventions:

  • Over-the-counter medications: Non-prescription drugs, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), can help reduce fever and alleviate pain.
  • Rest: Giving the body time to recover is essential when dealing with fever.
  • Fluids: Drinking plenty of fluids, such as water, juice or broth, can help prevent dehydration caused by fever.
  • Cool compresses: Applying a cool, damp cloth to the forehead can provide relief from fever-related discomfort.
  • Prescription medications: If the fever is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

Home Remedies for Fever

In addition to medical treatment, some home remedies can help provide relief from fever symptoms:

  • Cool baths: Taking a lukewarm bath can help lower body temperature and provide relief from fever-related discomfort.
  • Dress lightly: Wearing light, breathable clothing can help the body dissipate heat more effectively.
  • Use a fan: A fan can help circulate air and provide a cooling effect, making it easier for the body to regulate its temperature.
  • Herbal teas: Some herbal teas, such as ginger, chamomile and elderflower, may help alleviate fever symptoms by promoting relaxation and providing hydration.
  • Stay in a cool environment: Reducing exposure to heat can help lower body temperature and ease fever symptoms.

While it is not always possible to prevent fever, adopting certain habits and precautions can reduce the risk of developing a fever or minimise its severity:

  • Practice good hygiene: Regular handwashing, using hand sanitiser, and avoiding close contact with individuals who are sick can help prevent the spread of infections that cause fever.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep and managing stress can help support a healthy immune system, reducing the risk of infections and fever.
  • Travel Safe: Keep hand sanitiser or antibacterial wipes with you during travel when soap and water may not be available.
  • Follow best practises: Refrain from touching your nose, mouth or eyes, as it can facilitate the entry of viruses and bacteria, leading to infections.
  • Cover mouth:Practice covering your mouth while coughing and your nose while sneezing and encourage children to follow suit.
  • Avoid sharing personal items: Avoid sharing drinking cups, glasses and eating utensils to minimise the risk of spreading germs.

When to See a Doctor

Although most fevers are not a cause for concern, it is essential to consult a doctor if:

  • The fever lasts longer than three days.
  • The fever is accompanied by severe symptoms like difficulty breathing, severe headache, chest pain or a stiff neck.
  • The fever is higher than 104°F (40°C) in adults or 100.4°F (38°C) in infants under three months old.
  • The person experiencing the fever has a weakened immune system or chronic illness.


Fever is a common medical condition that signals your body’s natural response to infection or inflammation.

An informed understanding of the causes, symptoms and treatment options can help you effectively manage this common ailment and provide appropriate care for yourself or loved ones.


a) Is Getting a Fever Good?

While getting a fever may be uncomfortable, it is often a sign that your body’s immune system is functioning properly.

A fever is the body’s natural response to infection or inflammation, serving to help fight off harmful pathogens.

By raising the body temperature, fever creates an unfavourable environment for viruses and bacteria to thrive, while also enhancing the function of immune cells.

In most cases, a mild fever can be considered beneficial as it aids in the body’s recovery process.

However, if a fever is too high or lasts for an extended period, it is essential to seek medical advice to identify and address any underlying issues.

b) Can teething cause a fever in infants?

Mildly elevated body temperature can sometimes occur during teething, but it is generally not considered a true fever.

If your infant develops a temperature above 100.4°F (38°C), it is important to consult a paediatrician, as it could be due to an infection or another underlying issue.

c) Can stress or anxiety cause fever?

In some cases, especially in women, stress or anxiety can cause a condition called psychogenic fever, where they experience a temporary increase in body temperature.

It is essential to address the underlying psychological factors to effectively manage such fevers.

d) Can fever cause seizure in children?

Febrile seizures can occur in children aged 6 months to 5 years as a result of an increase in their body temperature.

A febrile seizure can be triggered even by a low-grade fever.

While febrile seizures can be alarming, they are usually harmless and don’t indicate a serious health issue.

Visit your child’s paediatrician promptly following his/her initial febrile seizure, even if it lasts just a few seconds. If the seizure extends beyond five minutes or is accompanied by:

  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Excessive drowsiness

It is advisable to take your child to the Paediatric ICU for immediate medical attention.

e) Can exercising cause a fever?

Intense physical activity can temporarily raise your body temperature, but this increase is usually not considered a fever.

Your body temperature should return to normal within a short period after exercising.

Heat exhaustion is not as severe as other heat-related conditions, such as heat stroke. However, it can potentially develop into a heat stroke.


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Sources: NCBI, Cleveland Clinic, WebMD, Healthline, Mayo Clinic.