High temperatures and fevers

High temperatures and fevers

Be your family’s guru of good health by understanding the difference between just feeling hot and having a proper fever, and learn what to do next.


What’s a normal temperature?
About 36 to 37°C – anything above that is a high temperature. It’s probably not a sign of illness unless it’s reached 38.5°C but anything over 37°C should be monitored to see how it develops.

What’s a fever?
• A fever in a child under 5 would be a reading over 37.5°C.
• A fever in a child over 5 or an adult would be 38°C or over.
• If it hits 41°C it’s a serious fever and urgent medical attention is needed.

What does a high temperature mean?
• As the body fights off infection it generates heat – it’s a natural reaction and not in itself dangerous. You can bring the temperature down with paracetamol or ibuprofen (check with the pharmacist if you are treating a child).
• One spike in temperature may not be a worry. Take two readings a couple of hours apart and see if it’s still high. 
• If there are also signs of pain or distress, and the patient is unable to eat or drink, call your GP or the NHS 0845 4647 straight away.

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What to do
• Cool the patient down gently by removing layers of clothes. If you open windows make sure it doesn’t get too chilly and that there isn’t a draught.
• Give plenty of water.
• Keep track of the temperature by taking a reading every few hours, especially if the person who’s ill is feeling worse. If there’s no improvement and you’re not sure what’s causing the temperature, seek medical advice.

Savvy tip
Take a reading from each of your family when they are healthy so you know what level is ‘normal’ – some people are naturally hotter than others. An ear thermometer can be the easiest way to read a child’s temperature.

Pass it on – ways to keep your family healthy
Vicks Protective Hand Foam and Micro-Gel Nasal Spray are useful First Defence essentials to keep in your winter medicine cabinet. Pass on their useful advice on the Vicks website.

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