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Kristina Duda, R.N.

When Is a Fever Too High?

By July 5, 2011

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I get this question a lot. Everyone who has ever had a fever or whose child has had a fever wants to know - how high is too high? When do we go from treating it at home to rushing to the hospital?Thermometer

Fortunately, you almost never need to rush to the hospital due to a fever alone. Although fevers can be scary and make us feel pretty miserable, it is just a symptom of an illness, not an illness itself. The course of action you take really depends on all of your symptoms, not a number on a thermometer.

Most people who ask this question are concerned because they believe that a high fever can cause brain damage. Or at least they heard that at one time. I'm happy to report that there is no proof or evidence that fevers cause brain damage, regardless of how high they get.

So the next time you or someone you know gets a fever, try to relax. We have a lot of great resources to help you figure out what could be causing the fever and what you can do about it.

Comments
November 4, 2012 at 2:05 am
(1) Omar says:

Ahh I’ll stick to higher than 103 or 104 thing. I had a fever of 105 once, went straight to the urgent care center and the doctors detected a virus in my lungs that could have caused pneumonia.

April 8, 2013 at 2:48 pm
(2) THIS IS WRONG says:

My uncle got a fever when he was a child and his development haulted. All doctors involved attributed this to the high fever, Also at a certian temperature a fever could be fatal…. DO NOT listen to this article if your child or you has over 103 GO TO THE HOSPITAL

April 10, 2013 at 10:04 am
(3) Kristina Duda, RN says:

I’m very sorry that your uncle experienced developmental delays. As a mother with a developmentally delayed child, I understand how difficult that can be. However, if you read the article included in the link “Do Fevers Cause Brain Damage?” it explains when and how fevers are dangerous. There is no medical evidence that a temperature above 103 is dangerous for most people, despite what the doctors may have said at the time. If you go to the hospital with a temperature of 103 or above, they will do the same thing you can do at home – give you Tylenol or Motrin and wait for it to come down. The decision to go to the ER should be based on other symptoms and how the sick person is acting, not simply by the number on the thermometer. I don’t make these recommendations based on my own opinions, I wrote this blog post and the articles that I linked to based on research and medical evidence.

January 21, 2014 at 10:44 pm
(4) betty says:

I remember like it was yesterday, my baby boy was 1yr had a high fever of 103. We took him to the er they wanted us to wait for an hour In the lobby. I beg for them to take him in but they said they had patience before us. By that time his fever wouldn’t go down. We finally left drove 30 minutes to another er, we got there they took him in fever was almost 106 got him in cold water and gave him a shot 30 minutes passed. finally fever started going down. My son is 7 now he has had speech problems motor skill problem and has developmental delays. I truly feel the high fever that night had something to do with his delays. I was young and stupid I should of done more for him but know all I can do now is help my son and keep moving forward. Hope this helps someone out. Don’t wait and never take no for an answer when it comes to your child

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