How to Break A Fever (and How to Get Rid of One)

We’ve all been there — sick in bed, simultaneously feeling hot and cold with a high fever. All we want to do is feel better if only this darn fever would break.

Looking for a natural remedy for a fever? Turns out, you’re in luck, because there are several natural ways you can treat a fever, just as there are natural ways to beat a flu or cold.

Believe it or not, getting a fever isn’t the worst thing in the world, despite the fact it feels like the opposite. A fever is most often a defense that the body provides against infection so it’s actually a good thing. Fevers are generally harmless and can actually be considered a good sign that your immune system is working properly and that the body is trying to heal itself.

That, of course, doesn’t make having a fever any less pleasant, and it sure doesn’t make you want to have one for any longer than you have to. So with that in mind, let’s look below at how to break a fever with some simple, natural methods.

What Is A Fever?

A fever is a high body temperature. It’s usually a symptom of an underlying condition, most often an infection.

While a fever can be very uncomfortable, it’s often not dangerous, as long as it’s not severe. Depending on your age, physical condition, and the underlying cause of your fever, you may not require any medical treatment to get rid of a fever.

What qualifies as a fever? 

In general, a fever is considered a body temperature that’s higher than normal. While the average normal body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C), a normal temperature range is between 97.5°F (36.4°C) and 99.5°F (37.5°C).

Most doctors consider a temperature above 100.4°F (38°C) in adults as a sign of a fever. A fever of about 101°F is considered mild and usually doesn’t require medication or a doctor’s visit.

Normal body temperature can vary with age, general health, activity level and even the time of day. Infants tend to have higher temperatures than older children.

It’s normal for our temperatures to be highest between late afternoon and early evening, and lowest between midnight and early morning. Even how much or the type of clothing a person wears, as well as the environment, can affect their body temperature.

How do you know if you have a fever?

If someone in your family has a fever, he or she may feel warm, appear flushed, sweat more than usual, and be thirstier than usual. Other symptoms include an earache, sore throat, a rash or a stomach ache, depending on the underlying cause.

Some types of fevers are referred to as hyperthermia, defined as a dangerous rise in body temperature that is “caused by a failure of the heat-regulating mechanisms of the body to deal with the heat coming from the environment.” This includes heat fatigue, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These conditions tend to cause more noticeable symptoms, including dizziness, fainting, sweating and cramping.

Here’s some reassuring news: brain damage from a fever generally will not occur unless the fever is over 107.6°F (42°C). Untreated fevers caused by infection will seldom go over 105°F unless the the individual is overdressed or trapped in an extremely hot environment.

How long does a fever last in adults?

Most fevers are resolved within several days. If you have a fever in the range of 101 to 103°F for more than 3 days, it’s best to get help in order to rule out serious underlying causes.

How to Break a Fever

Want to get rid of a fever in 24 hours? Keep in mind that a fever doesn’t always need to be totally resolved; the goal is usually to lower, not eliminate, the fever because the fever can actually be helping to fight off an infection.

Most people feel better when their temperature drops by even one degree, so the first step in how to get rid of a fever is to not attempt to bring it all the way down at once.

Typically, if a fever is mild, drinking plenty of fluids and resting will take care of it within a couple days. These are the two steps to focus on first. Make sure to stay hydrated and keep an eye on symptoms so you know if they’re getting worse. Also get lots of rest and dress comfortably.

Can you “sweat out” a fever? Sweating out a fever may be somewhat helpful because this is a sign that the fever is “breaking” and resolving. Heat is lost through your skin, so don’t bundle up, but rather wear comfortable clothing. There’s no need to wear lots of layers to purposefully increasing sweating, as this is unlikely to help. You might even want to leave some of your skin exposed, if this helps you feel better.

You may find that you fluctuate between feeling cold/shivering and feeling hot; this is normal while the body is overcoming a fever and may be a sign that it’s coming down.

How to Get Rid of a Fever

Here are some of the best tips on how to get rid of a fever:

1. Rest Is Key

When we rest, our bodies work on healing by repairing and restoring themselves. Sleeping allows the brain to trigger the release of hormones that encourage new tissue growth, and this rest helps your body defend itself.

When you rest, in particular when you sleep, your body makes more white blood cells that can attack viruses and bacteria, which is exactly what you want to happen.

That’s why if you can’t sleep, chances are your fever will last longer. Make sure to get plenty of rest, aiming for seven to nine hours of sleep a night.

2. Drink Plenty of Fluids

Hydration is important, as fluids can help remove toxins, which in turn speeds up the healing process.

  • Don’t give a child too much fruit or apple juice, but rather dilute these drinks by making them one half water, one half juice. The reason for this is that bacteria live on a type of sugar called glucose.
  • Avoid sports drinks as they’re typically filled with tons of sugar and other additives. However, coconut water is very hydrating and provides electrolytes, too.
  • Herbal teas, such as peppermint or chamomile, are also great options.

3. Eat Mild, Bland Foods

It’s normal to experience loss of appetite when having a fever. Eating mostly mild, bland foods can be helpful, especially if vomiting occurs. You don’t need to force yourself to eat, but do drink up.

Bland foods include foods like bananas, oatmeal and bone broth. Fruit juice popsicles are often good for children. But generally, try to offer unrefined, less sugary foods when possible.

How to get rid of a fever - Dr. Axe

4. Consume Probiotics

Probiotics are especially helpful in healing the gut, even during illness, as they help support the immune system.

Did you know that more than 70 percent of your entire immune system is located in your digestive tract? When you have a fever, it’s your immune system that’s compromised. Probiotics can help reduce the risk of certain acute common infectious diseases and enhance immune function.

Sipping on some kombucha or having some miso soup or yogurt may help when you are sick with fever.

5. Take a Lukewarm Bath

A lukewarm bath or sponge bath may help cool a fever. However, don’t use cold baths, ice, or alcohol rubs. These often make the situation worse by causing shivering.

Adding Epsom salt and a few drops of peppermint essential oil and/or lavender essential oil to a bath can help soothe muscles and relax an aching body.

6. Don’t Overdress

How can you get rid of fever chills? Don’t bundle up with blankets or extra clothes, even if you or your child has the chills, because this may keep the fever from coming down or even make it go higher.

Instead, try one layer of lightweight clothing and one lightweight blanket for sleep. The room should be at a comfortable temperature — however, if the room is hot or stuffy, a fan may help circulate the air.

Should you take an over-the-counter fever reducer?

If you feel the need to resort to medications after trying home remedies for a fever, try Tylenol or Motrin. Always call your doctor for any children under 3 months of age.

A study published in the Italian Journal of Pediatrics shows that parents and caregivers all too often resort to self-prescribed synthetic medications, such as acetaminophen, and over-dosage can sometimes occur. In fact, the study recommends that preventive action should be taken regarding the use of acetaminophen as an antipyretic drug in children in order to reduce the fever-phobia and self-prescription.

Causes

While many fevers are caused by common infections, there are also various non-infectious causes of fevers.

  • Most of the time, fevers aren’t very serious and stem from a virus that’s short-lived. That doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
  • Physical activity, strong emotion, eating, heavy clothing, medications, high room temperature and high humidity can all increase body temperature.
  • Almost any infection can cause a fever, including bone infections, respiratory infections, ear infections, sinus infections, mononucleosis, bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, urinary tract infections, viral gastroenteritis and bacterial gastroenteritis.
  • A child may have a low-grade fever for one or two days after some immunizations, and teething may cause a slight increase in a child’s temperature but usually not higher than 100°F.
  • A woman’s menstrual cycle can cause her temperature to rise by one degree or more.
  • Autoimmune diseases or inflammatory disorders may also cause fevers, such as arthritis or connective tissue illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.
  • Ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, vasculitis or periarteritis nodosa can affect temperature.
  • The first symptom of a cancer may be a fever. This is especially true of Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia. Blood clots or thrombophlebitis may also cause fever.
  • In addition, medications, such as some antibiotics, antihistamines and seizure medicines, can cause a rise in temperature.
  • You may also experience what’s known as unexplained fevers. These types of fevers continue for days or weeks and are called fevers of undetermined origin.

Fever in Infants and Children

Usually a fever is of most concern with infants and children.

Children may show accompanying symptoms, such as lethargy, fussiness, poor appetite, sore throat, cough, ear pain, vomiting and diarrhea — which are important to relay to your doctor.

It’s normal for any parent to worry when his or her baby has a fever, especially the first fever.  But a fever isn’t always dangerous for babies and children. According to University of Utah Health, “Most fevers between 100 and 104 are okay for sick kids.”

A child technically has a slight fever when their temperature is at or above one of these levels: 100.4°F (38°C) measured in the bottom (rectally); 99.5°F (37.5°C) measured in the mouth (orally); 99°F (37.2°C) measured under the arm (axillary). An adult probably has a fever when the temperature is above 99–99.5°F (37.2–37.5°C), depending on the time of day.

  • Infections are by far the most common cause of fevers in children. Health experts estimate that more than 10 million mild infections (throat and skin) occur every year. Most of these are caused by viruses, which are responsible for colds, upper respiratory infections and the common infectious diseases of childhood, such as chickenpox.
  • Some infections, caused by bacteria, may need special treatment. These include certain ear and throat infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, blood infections, and meningitis.
  • There are other, relatively uncommon causes of fever in children. These include allergic reactions to drugs or vaccines, chronic joint inflammation, some tumors, and gastrointestinal diseases.
  • Simply overdressing a baby can cause a rise in temperature.

Even though many older infants develop high fevers with minor illnesses, if a newborn has a fever higher than 100.4 °F, when taken rectally, you should consider talking to your child’s doctor.

How can you reduce a fever in your child naturally? Some of the ways to reduce fever in adults may not be appropriate for babies and children. Experts recommend waiting observing your child’s symptoms and only heading to the doctor if they seem very uncomfortable. Usually fevers only last two or three days with most viral illnesses. If they last longer, get your doctor’s help. In the mean time, give your child time to rest, plenty of fluids, and Tylenol and Motrin if they seem uncomfortable.

Another important thing to note is that febrile seizure can occur in some babies and young children. This can be especially scary. However, most febrile seizures are over quickly, and they don’t mean your child has epilepsy. In fact, they typically don’t cause any lasting harm, but it’s still something you may want to get checked out with your doctor.

The fever meter - Dr. Axe

Risks: When to Call the Doctor About a Fever

It’s important to know when you should call a doctor or get professional help for an adult or child who has a fever. Here are some things to look for:

  • Listless or uncomfortable, even after the fever goes down
  • Fever symptoms come back after they had gone away
  • The child does not make tears when crying
  • No urination in the past eight hours
  • If a child is younger than age 3 months and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 °F (38 °C) or higher, is 3–12 months old and has a fever of 102.2 °F (39 °C) or higher, or is under age 2 and has a fever that lasts longer than 48 hours
  • Anyone that has a fever over 105 °F (40.5 °C), unless the fever comes down readily with treatment
  • Has had fevers come and go for up to a week or more, even if they’re not very high
  • Has other symptoms that suggest an illness may need to be treated, such as a sore throat, earache, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or a cough
  • Has a serious medical illness, such as a heart problem, sickle cell anemia, diabetes or cystic fibrosis
  • Recently had an immunization

Call 9-1-1 if a fever is accompanied by issues like severe crying in children, confusion, inability to walk, strong headaches, blue lips, a very stiff neck, a sudden rash or a seizure.

Final Thoughts

  • Most doctors consider a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees as a sign of a fever.
  • A fever is most often a defense that the body provides against infection so it’s actually a good thing. Fevers are generally harmless and can actually be considered a good sign that your immune system is working properly and that the body is trying to heal itself.
  • Most fevers result from infections, though not always.
  • Here are some tips on how to get rid of a fever: Rest is key, drink plenty of fluids, eat mild and bland foods, consume probiotics, take a lukewarm bath, and not over-dressing. Sweating out a fever by not bundling up too much can be helpful and shows the fever is breaking.
  • How long does a fever last in adults? Usually several days, but rarely more than 3 to 5. Children will also usually overcome a fever within a few days.

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