Fast facts about fever

  • Normal body temperature is 37°C36
  • Fever is when your body temperature rises above 37.8°C36
  • Fever may become dangerous when it rises above 41°C36
  • Fever lasting 4 days or less is likely to be caused by infection36
  • The most effective and widely used medicines for fever (antipyretics) are paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen36

Our body's normal temperature is 37°C but it fluctuates slightly at different times of the day.36 It's the lowest when we wake up in the morning and can naturally rise up to 37.7°C in the late afternoon.36 A body temperature above 37.8°C can be classified as a fever.36

A fever can be one of the symptoms of an infection, inflammation, a drug reaction, an allergic reaction, an autoimmune disorder or an undetected cancer.36 If your fever lasts for 4 days or less, then it's likely to be caused by an infection.36 The most common infectious causes are upper and lower respiratory tract infections, infections of the gut, bladder or kidney, and skin infections.36 If your fever recurs or lasts longer than 4 days, the cause is more than likely non-infectious.36


There are a few things that you can do to help lower your body temperature at home.37 Drink plenty of fluids, take a slightly warm bath or apply a damp cloth to your wrists and forehead, and dress lightly.37 You'll also feel better if you get plenty of rest.37

Should I treat the fever with medicine?

Although fever is not dangerous (unless it is higher than 41°C), most people feel better when fever is treated.36 It also prevents dangerous complications in people with underlying medical conditions.36 The most effective and widely used antipyretics are paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or diclofenac.36 They also help to relieve any accompanying headache and body ache.37

When to contact a doctor

It's time to see your doctor when you have one of the following warning signs with your fever:36

  • A stiff neck and/or a headache
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Confusion or deterioration of your mental functioning
  • Small, purple-red spots on the skin (indicated bleeding under the skin)
  • A temperature higher than 40°C or lower than 35°C
  • Recent use of immunosuppressant drugs
  • Recent travel to a malaria area

Even if you don't have these warning signs, it's important to consult your doctor if your fever lasts more than 24-48 hours.36

Frequently asked questions