A fever is your body’s way of telling you something is not right. Your body will increase its core temperature in order to fight an illness or infection. The severity of the illness depends on the accompanying symptoms of the fever.
When to Go to the ER
A fever accompanied by a set of these symptoms requires emergency medical attention.
Fever + Headache + Neck Stiffness
These are symptoms of meningitis, inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain due to an infection of the fluid around the brain and spinal cord. Other symptoms of meningitis include nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light, achiness, fatigue, and pale or blotchy skin. Be sure to receive the vaccination, and go to the emergency room immediately if you are concerned you may have meningitis.
Fever + Confusion or Agitation + Headache and Rapid Heart Rate
When the body becomes overheated, heat stroke may occur. Heat stroke commonly involves a body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, irritability, deliriousness, dry and flushed skin, nausea or vomiting, rapid breathing, seizures, and unconsciousness. If you suspect you or someone is becoming overheated, move to a cooler area immediately, remove thick clothing, and cool down with a wet cloth or fan after calling 911.
Fever + Difficulty Breathing or Chest Pain
Usually you only need a visit to the doctor, rest, and time to overcome the flu, but the flu can become dangerous quickly. If you experience a barking cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, confusion, convulsions, chest pain, or your fever won’t go away as you fight the flu, you may be having a more serious complication. In this case, head to the emergency room.
Fever + Weakened Immune System
Fevers are common and usually nothing to worry too much about, but if your immune system is already weakened due to cancer, AIDS, or another serious condition, you need to go to the emergency room. Since your body is increasing its temperature to fight off an illness and your immune system may not be strong enough to help, it is important to receive medical attention as quickly as possible.
Fever + Blood in Secretions or Excrements
If you have blood present in your urine, stool, or mucus along with a fever, seek emergency medical attention. Blood present in bodily fluids or feces can be caused by a variety of complications, including the flu and kidney problems.
Fever + Unresponsiveness
If anyone becomes unresponsive for any reason, take him or her to the nearest emergency department. A fever accompanied by unconsciousness may be caused by heat stroke, meningitis, or other serious conditions.
Fever + Pain in Abdomen + Nausea or Vomiting
If you experience pain under your navel that is moving toward your lower right abdomen along with nausea or vomiting, you may have appendicitis. This is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, chills, constipation, diarrhea, and swollen abdomen.
If you have a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, go to the nearest emergency center. If an infant less than 4 months old reaches a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, take him or her to the ER. Visit your doctor if your fever is concerning or lasts longer than a week.
For Non-Emergency Fevers
If you do not experience any of the combinations of symptoms listed above and do not have emergency concern, take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen to lower your temperature and visit your doctor.
For any emergency, visit your nearest St. Luke’s Health emergency department.
Health Tip: Spot the Signs of Heat Stroke