A fever is defined as any elevation in your normal body temperature. Most people have a core body temperature of around 98.6 degrees, but some people may have a lower core temperature.
Clinically, a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher is considered a true fever. The presence of fever usually means that your body is targeting and fighting off something it’s not used to or that shouldn’t be there. This can be due to a bacterial infection, a viral infection, an allergic reaction, or even an autoimmune response.
In general, fevers are normal physiological processes. Doctors don’t fully understand why an elevated temperature helps fight off infection, but fevers are an important part of our body’s immune response.
When to go to urgent care for a fever
Not all fevers require a trip to an urgent care clinic. Many fevers will resolve on their own, and you’ll be feeling like yourself in a day or so. However, there are a few scenarios when you should see an urgent care doctor for a fever.
Visit your urgent care doctor for a fever when:
- You have a fever (100.4 degrees or higher) for more than a day or two
- Your temperature is elevated or you have a low-grade fever for several (5 to 7) days
- Your temperature is greater than 101 degrees without other apparent symptoms
- You have a fever that doesn’t respond to fever-reducing medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- You have an intermittent fever over a week or more
What you can do for your fever
If you have a fever, you can treat your fever at home by taking fever reducers, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of rest. Tracking your fever can also help identify the reason for your fever and help your doctor know best how to treat you.
When you have a fever, it’s helpful to document the following:
- When your fever started
- Changes in the height of your fever and its duration
- How your fever responds to fever-reducing medication
- Other symptoms you may be experiencing, including aches, pains, rashes, or any other symptoms that may not be normal for you
- Recent exposures to anyone who may have been sick in some way
- Any new medications you may have started; even antibiotics can cause reactions that include fever
- Any family history of autoimmune disease, especially if your fever is intermittent and lasts more than a couple of weeks
Thinking about your fever while at home can help your urgent care doctor provide better treatment if treatment is required.
What an urgent care doctor can do for your fever
When you visit your urgent care doctor for your fever, your doctor will ask about the history of your fever. Your doctor will also perform a physical exam as well as order some blood work, including a CBC (complete blood count). A high white blood count can indicate a bacterial infection, and a low white blood count can indicate the presence of the virus.
Your doctor may also order a urinalysis or a chest x-ray to identify the cause of your fever in the absence of other symptoms. Many fevers of unknown origin are the result of a UTI or chest infection. Some people are surprised to learn that you can still have pneumonia without upper respiratory symptoms.
You may need an antibiotic for your fever if your white blood count is elevated, you have abnormal lymph nodes, or you have a hot joint. Not all fevers will require antibiotic treatment.