Fever, also referred to as pyrexia, is defined as having a temperature above the normal range due to an increase in the body's temperature set point. There is not a single agreed-upon upper limit for normal temperature with sources using values between 37.2 and 38.3 °C (99.0 and 100.9 °F) in humans. The increase in set point triggers increased muscle contractions and causes a feeling of cold. This results in greater heat production and efforts to conserve heat. When the set point temperature returns to normal, a person feels hot, becomes flushed, and may begin to sweat. Rarely a fever may trigger a febrile seizure, with this being more common in young children. Fevers do not typically go higher than 41 to 42 °C (105.8 to 107.6 °F).
A fever can be caused by many medical conditions ranging from non-serious to life-threatening. This includes viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections—such as influenza, the common cold, meningitis, urinary tract infections, appendicitis, COVID-19, and malaria. Non-infectious causes include vasculitis, deep vein thrombosis, connective tissue disease, side effects of medication, and cancer. It differs from hyperthermia, in that hyperthermia is an increase in body temperature over the temperature set point, due to either too much heat production or not enough heat loss.
Treatment to reduce fever is generally not required Treatment of associated pain and inflammation, however, may be useful and help a person rest. Medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol (acetaminophen) may help with this as well as lower temperature. Measures such as putting a cool damp cloth on the forehead and having a slightly warm bath are not useful and may simply make a person more uncomfortable. Children younger than three months require medical attention, as might people with serious medical problems such as a compromised immune system or people with other symptoms. Hyperthermia does require treatment.
Fever is one of the most common medical signs. It is part of about 30% of healthcare visits by children and occurs in up to 75% of adults who are seriously sick. While fever evolved as a defense mechanism, treating fever does not appear to worsen outcomes. Fever is often viewed with greater concern by parents and healthcare professionals than is usually deserved, a phenomenon known as fever phobia.