ice pack
If you have a fever, try cooling yourself down with a cool pack for some relief.
Stevica Mrdja / EyeEm/Getty Images
  • Home remedies for a fever include drinking plenty of fluids, getting lots of rest, and cooling yourself down with a cool pack or by wearing light clothing.
  • There are no home remedies that will treat a fever, but there are ways to relieve your symptoms and feel more comfortable while your body recovers.
  • If you’ve had a fever that persists for longer than a few days or if your prolonged fever is accompanied by trouble breathing, seizures, or swelling, it’s important to seek medical aid.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

Fever, also called pyrexia, is technically defined as a body temperature of 100.4 °F or higher. That’s roughly two degrees above normal body temperature, 98.6 °F. 

 

A viral or bacterial infection is one of the most common causes of fever. A few other causes include immunizations, medicines, and heat illnesses among many.

The best way to tell if you have a fever is to take your temperature with a thermometer. However, if you don’t have a thermometer, a fever usually comes with other symptoms that may indicate your temp is running high:

“Fever can generally be relieved at home,” says Deepti Mundkur, MD, a primary care physician. If it’s a mild viral fever, it will usually resolve on its own in a couple of days. 

There are medications you can take for fever but if you’d prefer to avoid meds, here are some natural remedies you can try to help relieve some symptoms and reduce the risk of further complications.

Drink water

When you have a fever, your body will try to cool itself by sweating. This may help reduce your temperature, but it also can dehydrate you. So it is important to drink plenty of fluids while you’re fighting a fever.

Adequate fluid intake is about 15.5 cups a day for men and 11.5 cups for women. But when you’re running a fever, the recommendations increase.

“Water requirements increase by 100-150 mL/day [0.4-0.6 cups/day] for each degree of body temperature elevation over 100.4 ºF,” says Mundkur. So, for example, a man who is running a fever of 101.4 ºF should consume 16 cups of fluids/day and a woman should be getting 12 cups/day. 

However, “if you have been advised to limit your water intake due to liver, kidney, or heart failure, consult your doctor about increasing your fluid intake,” Mundkur says.

Other ways to get enough fluids

Some fluids, other than water, that might help are:

  • A standard, commercially available Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) salts like Trioral. Stick with store-bought ORS and don’t try to make it at home as major errors can occur when wrong proportions of sodium and sugar are administered.
  • Broth-based soups might help with replacing any fluids or sodium that may have been lost.
  • Juice is another option that can come fortified with vitamins and minerals. However, juice can be high in sugar, and therefore should be watered down or avoided if you have diabetes

You can also stay hydrated by eating water-rich fruits like watermelon.

Get plenty of rest

A fever is often uncomfortable, making it difficult to fall asleep. But it’s very important that you get enough rest since your body is already fighting an infection. Any activity, or exercise, will not only cause unnecessary strain, but it can also increase your body temperature, which is the opposite of what you want. 

Also, if it’s the summertime you should try to stay indoors, away from sunlight. You’re already dehydrated from being sick and that, when combined with high temperatures outdoors, can increase the risk of heat stroke.

You should already be cutting out any caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco, but if you’re not Mundkur says, “avoiding caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and keeping your bedroom dark and cool might help to sleep better.”

Read more tips on how to sleep better.

Cool yourself down

Fever occurs when the core body temperature rises so it is important to stay cool even if you feel chills. Mundkur says that drinking plenty of water helps the body regulate temperature more effectively.

Other ways to keep your body cool are:

  • Cool packs: Placing a damp washcloth over the forehead and wrists will help cool down the body. You don’t have to use ice, a cool washcloth will be sufficient.
  • Light clothing: Wearing breathable, light clothing will help your skin breathe and let air in to make you cooler.
  • Bath: Taking a bath, in normal or lukewarm water, might help. Avoid cold water as this can increase shivering, which in turn will raise your body temperature.

Use common medication if you have it

Although medication isn’t always necessary, it might help break the fever sooner.

Acetaminophen aka paracetamol (Tylenol), which typically takes less than an hour to reduce fever, is generally the preferred medication, says Mundkur. 

“The recommended dosage for treatment of fever with paracetamol [aka acetominophen] is 325 to 650 mg every 4 to 6 hours as needed. Maximum dose is 3 g/day for a healthy person since it can cause liver toxicity at higher doses,” says Mundkur. Other experts recommend a maximum of 4g/day, but Mundkur says to consult with a doctor before taking this amount.

If you live with any of the following conditions, there might be an increased risk of liver toxicity when you take acetaminophen: 

  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Malnutrition 
  • Low body weight
  • Any liver disease

When to see a doctor

“If the fever lasts for more than two days or if you have any other symptoms along with the fever that are not explained by common cold or flu symptoms, it is important to call your doctor,” says Mundkur.

Moreover, if a prolonged fever is accompanied by a rash, breathing trouble, seizures, severe pain or swelling anywhere in the body, it is important to see a doctor.

A fever above 103 °F that doesn’t reduce in more than two hours also requires medical attention. 

Insider’s takeaway

It’s important to stay hydrated, rest well, and keep your body cool to break a fever. 

If you only have slightly increased temperature of 100.4°F from the average 98.4°F, without any other symptoms, there is usually no cause to worry. A mild fever will generally go away on its own in a couple of days.

And just remember that a fever is your body’s defense mechanism for fighting infection, so it’s generally a good sign that your immune system is kicking in to help you feel better soon.

Related articles from Health Reference:

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