HealthyLife® Students' Self-Care Guide

Table of Contents

 Section I–Common Health Problems Caution

Previous Topic | Next Topic


“My temperature was so high, I felt like a barbeque grill in the summertime. I was too sick to go to class. It was very frightening.”

Robert S., NYU

When you don’t feel well and call a health care provider, you will most likely be asked if you have a fever.

Illustration of a dIgital thermometerKeep a thermometer in your dorm room or apartment to take your temperature when necessary. Use a digital one with disposable plastic probe covers. Use it as directed.

Glass mercury thermometers are not usually allowed in dorm rooms, because, if they break, droplets of toxic mercury can be released.

Signs & Symptoms

Normal body temperature ranges from 97 degrees Fahrenheit to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit being average. When you have a fever:

Your skin feels warm.

You may sweat.

Your temperature is higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.


Fever is one way the body fights an infection or illness. It helps speed up the body’s defense actions by increasing blood flow.

Body temperature changes during the day. It is lowest in the morning and highest in the evening.

Other factors that can affect your temperature reading include wearing too much clothing, exercise, and hot, humid weather. Also, a female’s hormones can cause her temperature to go up at certain times of the month, such as with ovulation.


If having a fever up to 102 degrees Fahrenheit causes you no harm or discomfort and you have no other medical symptoms or medical problems, you may not need to treat it. If the fever makes you uncomfortable, is 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, if you have other symptoms and/ or a medical condition, such as asthma, or if your fever lasts more than 3 days, you should seek medical care.

Questions to Ask

With a fever, do you have any of these problems?

  • Seizure

  • Listlessness

  • Abnormal breathing

  • Stiff neck. (You can’t bend your chin to touch your chest.)

  • Excessive irritability

  • Confusion

  • Severe, persistent headache

Yes. Get Immediate Care.


Is the fever 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for 36 or more hours? Yes. See Provider.



With a fever, do you have any of these problems?

  • Persistent ear pain or pain in the sinuses (face)
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Pain in the chest with deep breaths
  • Green, yellow, or bloody-colored discharge from the nose, throat, or ears
  • Urinary pain, burning, or frequency
  • Redness, swelling, and pain anywhere on the body
Yes. See Provider.



Has the fever done any of the following?

  • Gone away for more than 24 hours and then come back

  • Comes soon after a visit to a foreign country

Yes. Call Provider.



To Prevent a Fever:

Avoid very hot conditions.

Drink plenty of fluids.

To fight off infections, eat well, get plenty of rest, and exercise on a regular basis. Also, get recommended immunizations.

To Treat a Fever:

Drink at least 1 to 2 quarts of liquids every day. This includes water, fruit juice, etc.

Take a sponge bath with tepid (about 70 degrees Fahrenheit) water (not alcohol).

For high fevers, put cold packs or cool wash cloths on the neck, groin, and under the armpits.

Take the appropriate dose of an over-the-counter medicine to reduce fever. (See “OTC Medications for "Pain relief").


Don’t wear too many clothes or use too many blankets.

Don’t exercise.

February 19, 2004

©2003, 4th edition. American Institute for Preventive Medicine All rights reserved.