Carefree M.D. Blog

Low-Grade Fever: What to Do and When to Seek a Doctor

Carefree MD

March 18, 2021 | Blog

Feeling tired, unwell, and have warm skin? You may have a low-grade fever. This is a very common symptom of various minor diseases. But sometimes, you can also have a persistent low-grade fever. Here’s what you need to know about this type of fever and how you can treat it.

What Is a Low-Grade Fever?

There are three different levels of fevers: low-grade fever, regular fever, and high-grade fever. A low-grade fever is a slight elevation of the normal body temperature. It’s a minor fever that causes a lower temperature than a regular fever.

Officially, there’s no standard temperature for a low-grade fever. But, these three numbers can help you understand where a low-grade fever stands compared to other types of body heat elevation.

The normal average body temperature is 97°F to 99°F (36.1°C to 37.2°C). The CDC categorizes body temperature as a fever above 100.4°F (38°C). And anything above 103°F (39.4°C) would count as a high-grade fever. 

Based on this, it’s fair to assume that a low-grade fever is anything between 99°F (37.2°C) and 100.4°F (38°C).

Low-Grade Fever Signs and Symptoms

The best way to check if you have a low-grade fever is to check your temperature. You can do this with a thermometer. But, there are other signs and symptoms that appear when you have elevated body temperature. These include:

  • Warm skin
  • Flushed cheeks
  • Sweating
  • Chills and shivering
  • Glassy eyes
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache 

You may also experience other symptoms related to the cause of your fever. For example, a cough, runny nose, or sore throat are indicators of the common cold or flu. These additional symptoms can reveal why you have a low-grade fever.

Causes of Low-Grade Fever

Your body constantly works to maintain your optimal internal temperature. This varies based on your hormones, physical activity, and even nutrition. It also adapts to the temperatures of your environment.

However, sometimes your body needs to elevate your temperature above this ideal level. It usually happens to fight off bacteria or viruses. That’s why a low-grade fever is a common symptom of a number of mild diseases.

The common cold and the flu are the two most common causes of a low-grade fever. But viral pneumonia and bronchitis can also cause it (along with a persistent cough). 

Children can experience a low-grade fever from a number of childhood illnesses. These can range from chickenpox to measles. Often, children have back-to-back viral infections. This makes it seem like the low-grade fever is longer than usual.

Other Diseases That Cause a Low-Grade Fever

Viral respiratory infections are the most common cause of low-grade fevers. But, there are other illnesses and circumstances that can also ignite it.

  • Urinary tract infection: A persistent fever can be a sign of a UTI for both adults and children. If you feel pain or burning while peeing, and you have blood in your urine, it’s worth seeing a doctor about it.
  • Medications: Starting a new medication can cause a “drug fever”. For the first week and a half, your elevated body temperature may be a normal sign. 
  • Stress: Even stress can cause a low-grade fever. This is called a psychogenic fever. Fever-reducing medication won’t help with this type of elevated body temperature.
  • Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis (TB) is an extremely contagious bacterial disease. Painful, bloody coughing, and night sweats are other common symptoms. 
  • Autoimmune diseases: A number of autoimmune diseases cause a persistent low-grade fever. Multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis are two common ones.
  • Thyroid issues: Thyroiditis can cause a low-grade fever, thyroid inflammation, fatigue, and muscle pain. 
  • Cancer: Certain cancers can cause unexplained persistent elevated temperature.  Lymphomas and leukemias in particular. Seek out a doctor immediately if you’re worried about your symptoms.

Low-Grade Fever Treatments and Remedies

Usually, low-grade fevers disappear quickly. However, if you’re feeling unwell or your symptoms develop, you can treat a fever at home with natural remedies.

When you have a fever, it’s important to get plenty of rest. Drinking fluids can also help get you feeling better. 

You can also take over-the-counter medicines to lower your fever and ease your symptoms. Acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen are good for fever relief.

Talk to a doctor before giving infants under 3 months of age medication. Generally, it’s safe for children under 12 to take acetaminophen and ibuprofen to relieve fever symptoms. However, don’t give children under 12 years old aspirin. This can cause a serious disorder called Reye’s syndrome.

When to See a Doctor?

For adults, a low-grade fever is usually nothing to worry about. But, it’s worth monitoring your body temperature to see if it rises. If you develop a fever of 100.4°F - 103°F (38°C - 39.4°C), and it doesn’t get better after three days, you should contact a doctor. And if your fever goes above 103°F (39.4°C) at any time, you should seek out medical attention immediately.

For infants younger than 3 months, any elevation to their normal temperature is a sign of infection. Call a pediatrician if your baby has a consistent low-grade fever. Irritability, lethargy, diarrhea, and a cough are common accompanying symptoms to monitor.

If your child has a low-grade fever but they’re playing, eating, and drinking normally, it’s not cause for concern. Still, if their low-grade fever lasts more than three days, you should contact a doctor about it. 

In certain cases, it’s best to take your child to the doctor. If they’re irritable, vomiting, have diarrhea, or a fever after being in a hot car, their low-grade fever could be another symptom of illness.

Talk to a Doctor About Your Low-Grade Fever

While a low-grade fever by itself isn’t a cause for concern, it can be a sign of a serious underlying illness. If you have a persistent low-grade fever, or you’re worried about other symptoms, it’s best to see a doctor about it.

Luckily, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your home to speak to a professional. You can book an online consultation appointment with Carefree MD.

Our board-certified doctors offer quality medical care with the technology of telemedicine. To talk to a physician without leaving your home, all you need is a Carefree MD Card.

Worried about your low-grade fever? Sign up for Carefree MD to discuss your symptoms, get treatment, and find relief with telemedicine today!

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