A person’s normal temperature is between 36-38°C (96.8-100.4°F). A fever is said to be when the temperature remains higher than this for some time. Most fevers are caused by infection, either infection associated with diseases such as flu, meningitis or chickenpox or with a local infection, for example following a bite or in an open wound. Most fevers pass with minimal risk but a temperature over 40°C (104°F) can indicate a serious infection and medical advice should be sought. High temperatures, particularly in young children, can cause febrile convulsions.
Taking a temperature
A raised temperature is a sign that the body is fighting off an infection. There are several types of thermometer that can measure the body’s temperature, one of the most accurate being a mercury thermometer, in which a narrow column of mercury expands in response to heat and moves up to a point on a clearly marked scale. Take a temperature on the forehead, in the mouth, under the arm or, if you have an appropriate thermometer, in the ear. Do not take a child’s mouth temperature if you are using a mercury thermometer – she may bite ir and swallow mercury, which is a poison.
Signs and symptoms of fever
- Raised temperature
- Pale skin (becoming red as the temperature rises)
- Feeling shaky and shivery
- Increasing aches, pain and headache as the temperature rises
First Aid Treatment
- Make the person comfortable. Ensure that the surrounding air is cool (open a window or use a fan) and provide the person with cool flannels or sponges. Take care not to overcool.
- Give the person plenty of cool drinks. Encourage the person to sip these slowly to prevent feeling sick.
- Look for any other signs of infection, such as rashes or swollen glands, and seek medical advice if you are unsure of the cause or seriousness of the condition.
- Enable the person to take her usual painkillers. Paracetamol acts as an anti-pyretic, which means that it will help reduce a fever as well as bring pain relief. Non-steroidal antiinflammatories (NSAIDS) such as Nurofen are good for bringing down fever. Children should take medicine appropriate for their age.