A fever is a temporary increase in your internal body temperature and is a common side effect of certain illnesses, like the flu. When a person has a fever, it means their body is trying to heal itself. It usually isn’t a cause for concern in adults unless it reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
The average body temperature ranges for adults are between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit and between 97.9 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit for babies and children. Elderly adults (aged 65 or older) have difficulty retaining body heat due to decreased metabolism and blood circulation, so it is not uncommon for their baseline (average) temperature to be below 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Baseline temperatures vary from person to person, so it’s important to identify what’s normal for you so you know when your body is trying to tell you something. When your baseline body temperature goes up 2 degrees Fahrenheit or more, you have a fever and may need medical treatment.
If anyone (baby, toddler, child, or adult) has a fever with severe symptoms (e.g., vomiting with the presence of blood), visit your nearest emergency room.
When do I go to urgent care for a low-grade fever?
Here is an easy guide to help you answer the question, “What does a fever mean?”
- Low-grade fever (adult)
An adult with a temperature between 100.4 and 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 days or more has a low-grade fever, and it usually means their body is trying to fight off an illness or infection. Adults with low-grade fevers and no other symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or pain during urination can typically be treated safely at home with plenty of rest, hydration, and over-the-counter fever reducers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If other symptoms are present, there’s likely an underlying infection that needs prompt medical treatment at an urgent care center.
- Low-grade fever (child)
A child with an internal body temperature between 98.7 and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit that lasts more than 24 hours has a low-grade fever. Children with low-grade fevers and no other symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or pain during urination can typically be treated safely at home with plenty of rest, hydration and over-the-counter fever reducers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If other symptoms are present, there’s likely an underlying infection that needs prompt medical treatment at an urgent care center.
- Low-grade fever (baby 0-3 months)
A newborn’s temperature regulation system is immature, which means fever may or may not occur with infection or illness. However, fever in babies can be due to other causes that may be even more serious. A baby with a rectal temperature between 99 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit has a low-grade fever and usually does not need a doctor’s care. Do not give aspirin to babies or children under 2 without consulting your doctor first. However, it’s vital to keep an eye on it and call your baby’s doctor or visit your local urgent care center immediately if your baby has a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
If you (or your child) has a persistent or severe fever as well as symptoms like lethargy, ear pain, diarrhea, vomiting (without the presence of blood) or a sore throat, visit your nearest urgent care center for immediate medical care to avoid secondary infection. The medical team at Emerald Coast Urgent Care is skilled in diagnosing and treating illnesses that can cause a fever, like flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, and strep throat. We welcome walk-in appointments 7 days a week.