A fever, or high body temperature, is usually a symptom of an infection. Fevers cause a person to feel uncomfortable, so knowing how to break a fever will help you feel better. Medical experts believe that a fever is the body's way of fighting off infection. Most fevers are not dangerous, but you have to monitor them to ensure that your temperature does not rise too high. If you have a low fever, there are many home remedies to help you feel more comfortable.
Fevers are often the result of a viral infection, such as a cold or flu. When you become ill with a virus, your immune system responds by raising your body temperature. This rise in body temperature works to rid your body of the virus. Any temperature one degree above 98.6 F is considered a fever. If you have the know-how to break a fever, you won't have to be so miserable while the virus runs its course.
What Causes Fevers?
There is an area in the brain called the hypothalamus that controls your body's temperature. A fever occurs when the hypothalamus increases the set point of your body temperature. This will cause you to feel chilly, and you will probably dress warmer or wrap yourself in a warm blanket. Your body will respond by shivering to create more body heat. This will result in a higher body temperature, a fever.
A fever can be caused by many different things: heat exhaustion, medical conditions and immunizations. Generally, though, when we think of fevers, we are talking about infections from a virus or bacteria. In those instances, a fever is the how your body fights the infection. Low fevers do not usually require medical attention.
Fevers, no matter the cause, have symptoms that are common among children and adults. Along with the elevated body temperature, fevers may cause the following symptoms:
- Muscle aches
- Chills and shivering
- Loss of appetite
When a fever becomes more serious, new symptoms will develop. There are different symptoms depending on a person's age. When any of the following symptoms develop, the best thing to do is call your doctor. These are the more serious symptoms that you should look out for:
Fever in Infants
If your infant up to to 3 months of age develops a fever with a rectal temperature of 100.2 F or higher, you should get immediate medical attention. An infant's body temperature is not as easy to regulate as it is in older children and adults. If your child is 3 to 24 months old, a fever by itself is nothing to alarmed about unless it is with a rectal temperature of 102 F. If this should happen, take your child to the doctor as soon as possible.
Fever in Children
Children who come down with a fever will exhibit symptoms in addition to those already mentioned. When children develop a fever, you don't need to become alarmed. However, it is important to be alert for symptoms that may require medical attention. If your child has a fever of 104 F, is unusually lethargic, can't keep fluids down and appears listless, you should contact your doctor. If your child has a low fever, is playing and responds to you, you can make him or her more comfortable with the tips on how to break a fever.
Fever in Adults
Adults with a fever might develop a severe headache with sensitivity to light, an unusual rash, a stiff, painful neck, confusion, difficulty breathing or chest pain.
How to Break a Fever: 5 Safe Remedies to Try at Home
When you know how to break a fever, most of them can be treated at home. One way that everyone is familiar with on how to break a fever is to take over-the-counter pain medication, such as Tylenol, Advil or aspirin. However, if the fever is low, you can often bring it down with some simple home remedies, no medicine required.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
When your body temperature rises, it causes your body to sweat to cool down. Sweating leads to fluid loss and causes dehydration. To keep your body hydrated, try to drink as much as possible when you have a fever. This will replenish the fluid that is lost when you sweat. You don't have to limit yourself to just water. You can also drink juice, sports drinks, decaffeinated tea, broth and soup. The extra fluids will flush out the virus and help to regulate your body temperature.
Take a Bath
Taking a lukewarm bath will help to bring your fever down. You can add epsom salts or a bath bomb to help soothe sore muscles. Do not take a cold bath; your body will send blood to the internal organs and warm your body up instead of cooling it down. Even taking a sponge bath---focusing on the higher-heat areas of your body---will help to reduce your body temperature. When you aren't taking a bath, put a cold damp washcloth on your forehead and the back of your neck.
Rest, Rest and More Rest
Rest is one of the best suggestions for how to break a fever. When you have a fever, your body is telling you it's working to fight an infection. So, give yourself permission to rest as much as you can. Cut back on your physical activity during the day. Getting eight hours of sleep each night will also help. This allows your body to put its energy into getting rid of the virus or bacteria that is making you sick. The more rest you are able to get, the sooner you will start to feel well.
Keep Your Cool
Besides taking a cool bath, there are other things you can do to help keep your body temperature down. Wear light clothing; don't overdress or you will make your body temperature rise. Don't pile on the blankets---even when you feel chilly; the extra blankets will just make your fever go back up. Eat popsicles. Not only will they help cool you down, they're also a fun way to get some of the fluids you need. Turn on a fan to keep the air circulating; this will help your body to regulate its temperature.
Try an Herbal Remedy
If you're wondering how to break a fever with natural supplements, consider trying an herbal remedy. Since most herbal remedies are taken in the form of tea, this will help you get fluids which your body needs. Echinacea tea may help give your immune system a boost. This will help you fight off the infection and get rid of the fever faster. Yarrow tea triggers the body to sweat more which may help shorten the length of time you have a fever. Elderflower tea also makes you sweat and reduces the amount of mucus your body produces. Another sweat-producing herb is ginger.
Herbal supplements can also be helpful. The tropical plant, Moringa is full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and even contains antibacterial compounds.
Another herb, Kudzu Root, has anti-inflammatory properties that can lessen the amount of pain and discomfort associated with a fever. Willow Bark acts in much the same way as aspirin and can ease your headache.
How to Prevent a Fever
The best way to treat a fever is to not get one in the first place. Practicing good hygiene is the easiest way to avoid catching a cold or flu virus. Here are a few suggestions that can help:
- Washing your hands before eating, after using the restroom, after being around someone who is sick and after traveling on public transportation
- Teaching your children proper hand washing, covering the entire hand with soap and rinsing completely
- Carrying hand sanitizer for those times when you are not able to wash your hands
- Not touching your nose, mouth or eyes (These are the main entry points into the body for viruses and bacteria.)
- Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and teaching your children to do the same. (Turn away from other people to lessen the chance that you will spread germs.)
- Avoiding the sharing of eating and drinking utensils
Usually, a fever is no cause for concern. In most cases, a fever will run its course on its own in both children and adults. Using these tips on how to break a fever will help you to be more comfortable as you fight the virus or bacteria that has made you ill. Keep in mind, though, that if you develop any of the more serious symptoms mentioned above, it is best to call your doctor. You should also call your doctor if your fever won't come down or lasts more than three days.
Drinking plenty of fluids and getting lots of rest are the two best things you can do for yourself when you have a fever. Keeping your body well-hydrated and well-rested allows it to focus on fighting the illness, and this will reduce the amount of time you are sick.
Alice grew up in Los Angeles and currently lives in California, though she likes to visit home frequently. She graduated from a marketing specialist degree and worked at the core of outreach teams for more than 5 years.