1. Common Health Problems

Fever

"My temperature was so high, I felt like a barbeque grill in the summertime. I was too sick to go to class. It was very frightening."

– Robert S., NYU


When you don't feel well and call a health care provider, you will most likely be asked if you have a fever.


Keep a thermometer in your dorm room or apartment to take your temperature when necessary. Use a digital one with disposable plastic probe covers. Use it as directed.


Glass mercury thermometers are not usually allowed in dorm rooms. If they break, droplets of toxic mercury can be released.

Signs & Symptoms

Normal body temperature is about 98.6°F (37°C). When you have a fever:

  1. Your temperature is higher than 99.5°F (37.5°C).

  2. Your skin feels warm.



Causes

Fever is one way the body fights an infection or illness. It helps speed up the body's defense actions by increasing blood flow.


Body temperature changes during the day. It is lowest in the morning and highest in the evening.


Other factors that can affect your temperature reading include wearing too much clothing, exercise, and hot, humid weather. Also, a female's hormones can cause her temperature to go up at certain times of the month, such as with ovulation.



Treatment

If having a fever up to 102°F (38.8°C) causes you no harm or discomfort and you have no other medical symptoms or medical problems, you may not need to treat it. If the fever makes you uncomfortable, is 102°F (38.8°C) or higher, if you have other symptoms and/or a medical condition, such as asthma, or if your fever lasts more than 3 days, you should seek medical care.

Digital Thermometer*

Self-Care

To Prevent a Fever

  1. Avoid very hot conditions.

  2. Drink plenty of fluids.

  3. To fight off infections, eat well, get plenty of rest, and exercise on a regular basis. Also, get recommended immunizations.


To Treat a Fever

  1. Drink at least 1 to 2 quarts of liquids every day. This includes water, fruit juice, etc.

  2. Take a sponge bath with tepid (about 70°F; 21.1°C) water (not alcohol).

  3. Take the right dose of an over-the-counter medicine to reduce fever. (See "Pain Relievers" in "Over-the-Counter Medication Safety.")

  4. Rest.

  5. Don't wear too many clothes or use too many blankets.

  6. Don't do heavy exercise.

Questions to Ask

Is the fever 102°F (38.8°C) or higher for 36 or more hours?

Has the fever done any of the following?

  1. Gone away for more than 24 hours and then come back.

  2. Comes soon after a visit to a foreign country.

With a fever, do you have any of these problems?

  1. Seizure.

  2. Listlessness.

  3. Abnormal breathing.

  4. Stiff neck. (You can't touch your chin to your chest.)

  5. Excessive irritability.

  6. Confusion.

  7. Severe, persistent headache.

With a fever, do you have any of these problems?

  1. Persistent ear pain or pain in the sinuses (face).

  2. Persistent sore throat.

  3. Pain in the chest with deep breaths.

  4. Green, yellow, or bloody-colored discharge from the nose, throat, or ears.

  5. Urinary pain, burning, or frequency.

  6. Redness, swelling, and pain anywhere on the body.