You’ve got chills and aches and you’re not feeling that great. You take your temperature and the thermometer reads 101 degrees. Should you reach for a fever reducer or should you let your body fight off the infection — after all, you have a fever for a reason, right?
Here, we’ll explore the role fevers play in our health, if you should use a fever reducer and when you should see a doctor.
What does a fever do?
When an infection invades your body, your immune system mounts a response. Part of that response is to raise your body’s core temperature. This rise in temperature makes your body a less favorable environment for those invading germs.
However, illnesses are not the only reasons you can get a fever. Your body temperature will rise if you’re experiencing a heat-related illness, going through alcohol withdrawal or abusing amphetamines.
Should I use a fever reducer?
Since fevers have a purpose, is it necessary to take medication to bring them down? This is a common question among doctors and patients. According to Mayo Clinic, a fever of up to 102 degrees doesn’t require medication to reduce it. Simply rest and make sure you get plenty of fluids, because fevers can cause you to become dehydrated.
If your temperature is above 102 degrees, you can use medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce it if you’re uncomfortable.
If you’re uncomfortable, but don’t want to take medication, you can try bringing down your fever by taking a cool bath or shower or placing cool cloths on your skin. Drinking plenty of cool liquids also may help.
But if you’re experiencing a fever related to a heat illness, using a fever-reducing medication won’t help. To bring down body temperature in this case, your body needs to be cooled quickly. This is usually done by removing the person’s clothes, placing cool cloths on his or her body and placing fans near him or her.
When should I see a doctor?
If your fever does not respond to medication, is consistently above 103 degrees or lasts for more than three days, see your doctor.
Seek emergency medical care if you:
- Have a temperature of 105 degrees of higher
- Are experiencing confusion or excessive sleepiness
- Have a stiff neck and headache
- Are experiencing symptoms of heat illness but are not sweating
Most of the time, a fever is our body’s way of protecting itself against harmful invaders, and treating it will have no ill effects on your body or how long your illness lasts. If you have questions about your fever, talk to your doctor.