Normal body temperature is usually about 98.6º F. That number is an average, but what’s normal for you or your family members may be a little bit higher or lower.
A fever is a body temperature that is higher than normal. A fever is part of your body’s normal immune response to try to kill a virus or bacteria that caused an infection, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Fever is one of the main symptoms of sickness from coronavirus infection, along with cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms can appear two to 14 days after exposure to coronavirus, according to the CDC.
If you or a family member has a fever, defined by the CDC as 100.4º F or 38º C or higher; a cough; or trouble breathing, call your physician at AdventHealth or your local health department and seek medical advice.
The main coronavirus symptoms to know are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Common coronaviruses usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, much like the common cold. Coronaviruses can also sometimes cause illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis. Most patients with respiratory symptoms do not have COVID-19 and likely have a more common illness like the flu.
If you're experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or other illness, schedule an online visit through the AdventHealth app to consult face-to-face, in real time, with a real provider. Your medical professional will ask questions to determine next steps and can help you with other medical needs. Remember, to help prevent the spread of the virus, avoid the emergency room at your local hospital except in cases of emergency.
How to Take a Temperature
The CDC provides these tips for taking a temperature:
- Wait 30 minutes after eating, drinking or exercising
- Wait at least six hours after taking acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin
- Turn on the thermometer by pressing the button near the screen
- Hold the tip of the thermometer under your tongue until it beeps; don’t bite the thermometer
- When the thermometer beeps, read your temperature on the screen: If your temperature is 100.4º F or 38º C or higher, you have a fever
- Keep track of your temperature and symptoms in a journal, such as this handy Check and Record Everyday provided by the CDC
- Clean your thermometer with soap and water and dry it well
For babies and children under the age of four, use an ear thermometer or place a regular thermometer under their arm in the middle of their armpit. For the armpit method, a temperature reading of 99.4º F or 37.4 º C or higher indicates a fever.
Treating a Fever Without Medications
Bringing down a fever can help a sick person feel better and help them rest. You can bring down a fever without medicine using these approaches, according to the CDC:
- Give them a slightly warm bath
- Place a cool, damp washcloth on their forehead
- • Wash their arms and body with a cool cloth
Treating a Fever with Medications
To treat a high fever with medicine at home, ask your physician which product is best for you or your family member. They can determine the correct dose to give based on the person’s age, body weight and history of other health conditions that may put them at risk for taking certain medications.
Read and understand the warnings and cautions on the product labels of over-the-counter fever-reducing medications before giving or taking them. Do not exceed the maximum dose, including the daily limit, to prevent dangerous side effects.
For example, ibuprofen carries a higher risk for heart attack or stroke, ulcers or bleeding in the stomach or intestine. Taking too much acetaminophen can cause serious damage to the liver, and overdoses can be fatal.
Recently, there was a controversy in the news about whether ibuprofen makes coronavirus worse or if you should take acetaminophen instead. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) are not recommending against the use of ibuprofen because there isn’t enough evidence yet to rule it out.
Aspirin is not recommended for children under the age of 18 years. It can cause a rare, serious illness called Reye syndrome in those who are recovering from viral infections like flu or chickenpox.
Fever-reducing medicines can take 30 to 45 minutes to start working and may not reduce the fever all the way down to normal body temperature. Use a special spoon, dropper or the measuring cap that came with the medicine, and wash it with soap and water after each use.
Learn more about the Safe Use of Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers in these online resources provided by the FDA.
Signs of Dehydration
Give plenty of water or other clear fluids at the first sign of fever to help prevent dehydration. Avoid alcohol or drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea or caffeinated sodas.
Continue to nurse or bottle-feed a baby as they will get the fluid they need from breast milk or formula. If they refuse to breastfeed or drink formula from a bottle, call your physician.
For people who are too weak to drink from a cup, try using a straw, squeeze bottle, or offer ice chips or frozen ice pops. Older adults and people with kidney problems should consult with their doctor on safe amounts of liquid to drink.
Signs of dehydration in children and adults include the following, according to the CDC:
- A child may be cranky or irritable, hard to wake up, or have little energy
- A sunken soft spot on top of your baby’s head
- Blood in the stool or vomit
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Less than the usual amount of urine: Watch for less than the usual number of wet diapers for babies or diapers that weigh less than usual, and fewer trips to the bathroom for other family members
- Not making tears when crying
- Skin that is dry and takes a long time to go back to a normal position after being pinched
- Urine that is dark yellow — clear or light-yellow urine means the person is getting enough fluid
Emergency Warning Signs for Worsening Coronavirus
In addition to watching for signs of dehydration while treating a fever at home, watch for these emergency warning signs of worsening symptoms from COVID-19, according to the CDC:
- Bluish color on lips or face
- New confusion or trouble waking up
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- Trouble breathing
We’re Here, Ready to Help
Things are changing rapidly with the coronavirus pandemic. We’re here to help you and your family make informed decisions.
If you have any questions about which treatments and medications are safe and effective to take at home to treat a fever due to coronavirus infection, contact your physician at AdventHealth.
Visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub for the latest updates and guidance from leading health authorities on COVID-19 care. Read more on the controversy about using ibuprofen or acetaminophen to treat a fever with coronavirus in our blog post How to Treat a Fever at Home.
Contact us through the AdventHealth App, where you can message your care team, access your medical records and be seen by a physician during a virtual visit in the comfort of your own home. Find more answers to your Coronavirus FAQs.