A fever (higher than 98.6 F) means your body has something unusual going on. But the degree of fever doesn’t necessarily indicate the seriousness of the underlying condition. A minor illness may cause a high fever, and a more serious illness may cause a low fever.
For very young children and infants, a slightly elevated temperature may indicate a serious infection. For an adult, a fever may be uncomfortable, but your fever usually isn’t dangerous unless it reaches 103 F or higher.
When should I see a doctor?
Fevers may not be a cause for alarm — or a reason to call a doctor. Yet there are some circumstances when you should seek medical advice for your baby, your child or yourself.
Call your child’s doctor if your child:
- Is listless or irritable, vomits repeatedly, has a severe headache or stomachache, or has any other symptoms causing significant discomfort.
- Ask your child’s doctor for guidance in special circumstances, such as a child with immune system problems or with a pre-existing illness. Your child’s doctor also may recommend precautions if your child has just started taking a new prescription medicine.
Call your own doctor if you as an adult has:
- A temperature higher than 103 F
- You’ve had a fever for more than three days
High fever and symptoms like those below, call your doctor right away
- Severe headache
- Severe throat swelling
- Unusual skin rash, especially if the rash rapidly worsens
- Unusual sensitivity to bright light
- Stiff neck and pain when you bend your head forward
- Mental confusion
- Persistent vomiting
- Difficulty breathing or chest pain
- Extreme listlessness or irritability
- Abdominal pain or pain when urinating
- Any other unexplained signs or symptoms