A fever is when your body temperature is above 38.0C. It is a normal part of your body's response to infection. Although it can be uncomfortable, most healthy adults can tolerate a fever well. A fever is also a sign you could be spread infection to others.

Fever in tamariki (children)

Fevers are common in tamariki — even a cold can cause a high fever. A fever on its own will not tell you if your tamaiti (child) is seriously sick. Most healthy tamariki can tolerate a fever well, but it can be a sign of something more serious.

If your pēpi (baby) is under 3 months old, you should always see their healthcare provider.

Detailed information about fever in tamariki is available on the KidsHealth website.

Fever — KidsHealth (external link)

Symptoms of fever

These are the fever ranges and symptoms you may experience.

38°C to 38.9°C — mild fever

With a mild fever you might:

  • have flushed cheeks
  • feel a little lethargic
  • be warm to touch.

You will generally be able to carry out normal daily activities. But think about staying away from work and vulnerable whānau.

39°C to 39.9°C — high fever

With a high fever you:

  • may not feel well enough to go to work
  • may have aches and pains
  • will feel hot to touch.

Diagnosing fever

A digital thermometer is the best type to use to get an accurate temperature reading.

How to use thermometers — KidsHealth (external link)

When adults should see their healthcare provider

Some mild diseases produce very high fevers. Severe illnesses can produce mild fever. When thinking about what medical attention you need, it is important to look at other symptoms and how unwell you feel.

If you are pregnant and have a temperature of 38.5ºC, or any fever lasting for 3 days or more, you must see your midwife or doctor. They will need to monitor the effects of the fever on your pēpi (baby).

You should see your healthcare provider if you or a whānau member:

  • has a high fever (over 39°C)
  • is still feverish after 3 days of home treatment, or seems to be getting sicker
  • is shivering or shaking uncontrollably, or has chattering teeth
  • has a severe headache that does not get better after taking painkillers
  • is having trouble breathing
  • is getting confused, or is unusually drowsy
  • is getting dehydrated (shown by extreme thirst, dry cracked lips, less wees (urine), dizzy when stands up, feeling weak, drowsy, cramps)
  • has recently travelled overseas
  • immune system is not working properly because of other illness, medication or treatment.

When to get immediate medical care

Self care for fever

Most fevers last only 3 to 4 days. A mild fever may not need any treatment. Try these ideas if your fever is mild and you do not have any other worrying symptoms.

  • Drink plenty of fluids — water is best.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Wear light weight clothes and use lighter bedding.
  • Keep the room temperature normal.
  • Put cool cloths on your face, arms and neck to help you cool down. Do not use any rapid cooling methods that may make you shiver. The muscle movement in shivering will actually raise your temperature and can make your fever worse.
  • Take paracetamol or ibuprofen every 4 to 6 hours to help bring down the fever. It is important not to get dehydrated if you take ibuprofen, as there is a risk of kidney disease.

Ask someone to check on you regularly to make sure you are OK.

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