When to Seek Emergency Care for a Fever

Feb 07, 2023
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When to Seek Emergency Care for a Fever

While low-grade fevers can usually be managed at home with over-the-counter medications, rest, and cool compresses, some fevers need medical attention. Normal body temperature is 97.6 degrees Fahrenheit. While anything above that is considered an elevated temperature, a true fever is diagnosed when body temperature reaches 100.4 or higher

Here at St. Michael’s Elite Hospital in Sugar Land, Texas, we welcome patients who need help managing their fevers. Read on to determine when a fever needs to be treated at the emergency room or when you can manage symptoms at home or wait until the next available doctor’s appointment.

Symptoms of a fever

Raised body temperature is a clear symptom of a fever, but other symptoms include:

  • Shivers and sweats
  • Dehydration
  • Body aches
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite

All of these symptoms are common alongside fever. Over-the-counter medications, rest, fluids, and cool compresses are ways to ease fever and the associated symptoms. 

If you have a fever that doesn’t subside after 1-3 days, seek medical care to make sure there's not a more serious underlying condition that needs to be addressed. Make an appointment with your medical provider soon, but you don’t necessarily need to go to the ER unless you can’t get an appointment or your symptoms worsen.

Possible causes of a fever

Viral infections, like the flu or COVID-19, can cause a fever in adults and kids. Bacterial infections like pneumonia or urinary tract infections are other common causes. Appendicitis, meningitis, kidney infection, and encephalitis are other possible viral and bacterial causes that must be dealt with in an ER or hospital.

Cancer, drug reactions, and autoimmune diseases, like lupus and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), could be other underlying causes of prolonged or significant fever.

Seeking ER care for a fever

A fever of 103 degrees or higher is considered high for an adult. For children older than three months, be concerned when they have a fever higher than 104 degrees. Anyone with a high fever may show severe symptoms like:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Persistent crying
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Unresponsiveness

Seizures, a stiff neck, a purple spotted rash, or a severe sore throat are other notable symptoms that can accompany a fever requiring emergency care.

A child younger than three months with a fever should see a doctor right away. 

Other signs that a fever in a child requires emergency care include abdominal pain, earache, trouble breathing, persistent vomiting, or pain while urinating. 

Adults with a history of diseases, like cancer or HIV, should also seek immediate care for a high fever. 

What the ER can do for a fever

When you visit our hospital with a fever, we can determine the underlying cause of the illness and begin needed treatment. Many people with a high fever are dehydrated and require IV fluids. We’ll offer medications to reduce a high fever and monitor for complications. 

If you need help with a fever, contact our hospital to schedule an appointment right away or make your way to the emergency room.