10th January, 20204 min read

How to take care of a fever

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A fever (high temperature) is a symptom of an underlying condition, most commonly an infection. It can make you feel hot and generally unwell, but it’s usually just a sign that your body’s natural defences are taking effect.

And as a fever usually resolves on its own with time, you don’t always have to visit a doctor.

Here’s how to take care of a fever at home and how to tell if you need to see a doctor.

Taking care of a fever with self-care

You can take care of a fever at home by getting plenty of rest and sleep. You may find it hard to drift off if your symptoms are bothering you or you may experience disrupted sleep, but try to take naps regularly and rest.

It’s important to stay hydrated. You’ll know if you’re drinking enough by the colour of your pee (urine). Pale yellow or clear urine means you're unlikely to be dehydrated, while anything darker suggests you should be drinking more water. Avoid alcohol as this can make you more dehydrated.

When you have a fever, it can be confusing to know whether to wrap yourself up in layers or strip down as your body temperature changes from hot to cold and back. Wear loose, comfortable clothing when at home and make sure the room you’re in isn’t too hot. Don’t try to make yourself feel cold and try to avoid going outdoors.

Taking care of a fever with medication

A doctor may advise taking medication from the pharmacy to temporarily bring down your body temperature. This may help to ease any aches and pains and may help you sleep.

Some medications can make you feel drowsy, which can help if your symptoms make it hard to sleep. You should avoid driving while taking any medicines that make you feel drowsy.

Speak to your pharmacist or doctor for further guidance on whether to use these medications and how to get and use them.

When to see a doctor for a fever

If you have a fever that’s getting worse, is over 39.5C or has lasted for more than 5 days, and/or you’re worried about your symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately.

You should also seek emergency medical attention if you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions:

  1. Are you weak, light-headed, sleepy or confused?
  2. Do you have any new and/or severe muscle cramps?
  3. Do you have a stiff neck and/or sensitivity to bright lights?
  4. Have you got unexplained rashes on your body?
  5. Do you have a sore throat and are you struggling to swallow saliva or drooling?
  6. Are you struggling to breathe?
  7. Have you had a fit or seizure?
  8. Are you very thirsty?
  9. Is your pee darker than normal or does it hurt to pee?
  10. Have you recently travelled abroad?
  11. Do you have a headache or chest pain?
  12. Are you vomiting a lot?
  13. Have you had abdominal pain or blood in your poo?
  14. Is any part of your body red, hot or swollen?
  15. Have you swallowed any poison, toxins or tablets?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, see a doctor immediately. A severe or very high fever can cause the muscles in the body to spasm uncontrollably (convulsion). A fever with a stiff neck, headache and a rash can be a sign of

, a serious illness that affects the tissue surrounding the brain.

Note: You should also see a doctor if you have a fever and you:

  1. have a weakened immune system caused by conditions and medications, such as:

  2. have a pre-existing condition like

    or chronic lung disease

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.