When Should You Call a Doctor About a Fever?


Quick Answer

Consult a doctor when an adult has a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit that is continually rising, MedlinePlus states. Generally, infants younger than 3 months old need medical attention for a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and infants 3 to 12 months old need assistance for fevers of 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Seek help for fevers that exceed 24 to 48 hours in children under 2 or fevers longer than 48 to 72 hours in older children and adults.

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Full Answer

In children, mild fevers usually don't require professional treatment if their behavior, appetite and appearance are normal and they don't have symptoms, such as a cough, earache, rashes or painful urination, according to MedlinePlus. However, contact a doctor if the child recently traveled abroad, received immunization or suffers from an existing health problem, such as diabetes, heart disease or cystic fibrosis. Seek emergency care if a feverish child is crying inconsolably, cannot walk or move certain limbs, appears confused, or has a severe headache. Other serious warning signs include blue lips, nails or tongue; a stiff neck; seizures; and difficulty breathing.

Similarly, adults usually need professional care for a symptomatic fever with major warning signs, such as a change in mental function, rapid heart rate, flat purple or red skin spots, shortness of breath, or a stiff neck, explains MedlinePlus. They are also more likely to need emergency care if they recently traveled out of the country, are treated with immunosuppressive drugs or have recurrent fevers, which may be caused by an underlying health problem such as cancer.

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