Normal body temperature, when measured orally, should be 98.2 ± 1.3ºF, or 36.8 ± 0.7ºC. Axillary (armpit) temperature over 99.0ºF (37.2ºC) is referred to as fever, or pyrexia, or controlled hyperthermia. People usually know that high fever can lead to brain damage but they don't know what is considered a high fever. In adults and grown-up children, mild or medium fever normally does not require any treatment, but high body temperature usually indicates a potentially dangerous infection.
High Fever in Babies, Kids and Adults
High body temperature in infants can lead to brain damage, resulting in long term effects like vision problems, restricted growth, restricted movement, etc. Infant's or toddler's immune system is not as strong as that of an adult. So utmost care has to be taken if an infant or toddler develops fever. Actually, the infection has to be cured and not the fever. The body tries to fight infection by increasing its temperature and thus creating an unfavorable environment for the bacteria to sustain.
Newborn Infants: For babies, less than 3 months old, a temperature of 100.4ºF (38ºC) is considered as high fever.
3-6 Months Old Babies: For babies between 3 and 6 months old, 101ºF (38.3ºC) body temperature is called excessively high body temperature.
6 Months or Older Babies: For babies, 6 months or older, body temperature of 103ºF (39.4ºC) is considered as fever.
Small Kids and Adults: A body temperature of about 98.6ºF to about 100.9ºF is described as a low-grade fever. A body temperature of about 101.1ºF to 102ºF is described as a mild fever. And body temperature above 103ºF is a cause of concern.
You should call your doctor immediately, or rush to an emergency room if your baby has higher than normal body temperature. Extremely high and persistently high fever can be a life-threatening condition. Even adults with extreme body temperature do need prompt medical attention.
How to Treat a Fever
Although infection is the main cause of fever, toddlers often develop fever during teething. Parents need to watch the symptoms when infants or toddlers have fever. Change in appetite can easily be noticed. After knowing the other symptoms, the doctor can plan proper treatment. Till then, cold sponging of the body and head is of extreme importance in small babies and children, as they can get convulsions (fits) during high fever. Never give medications used for reducing fever in adults to small babies and children. Give plenty of fresh water and other healthy liquids to the child during fever. It helps prevent dehydration and brings down the temperature very fast. Even the best medicines won't work if there is insufficient water in the body of the child.
If a child has fever, remove his/her clothes and immediately start sponging the body with cold water. Sponging the arms, chest, abdomen and back helps lower the fever. Frequent or repeated sponging might be required in case of high fever. You should keep a towel soaked in cold water on the forehead of the child. You should soak the towel in cold water every five minutes as it will dry out soon. You should note down the temperature every half an hour.
You should not cover even an adult patient with heavy blankets. Putting on too many clothes during fever is a wrong way of treating the fever. One bed sheet over a shirt (minimum clothing) is actually enough. Sponging works great for fever in adults as well. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen reduces the fever quickly. Giving these drugs to infants or small babies can lead to serious health complications. You should always consult your doctor before giving any medication to babies, and you should follow the instructions regarding the dosage religiously.
Patients with fever are mostly advised to follow a liquid diet. Plenty of plain water, fruit juices; milk, tea, coffee, with bread, cookies or cornflakes; porridge and various soups can be given during fever. High fat, heavy, fried and spicy foods should be avoided. Breast feeding can be continued during fever.
Now that you know what is considered a high fever, I hope there is no confusion regarding when to seek medical help and when to rely on home remedies. Parents need to take utmost care to prevent fever in children. Apart from infection, sun-stroke, heat exhaustion, arthritis, hyperthyroidism can lead to fever. Correct diagnosis helps design the treatment.