Low-Grade Fever: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment (2023)

A low-grade fever is usually defined as a body temperature between 99 F (37.2 C) and 100.3 F (37.9 C). Some healthcare providers define a low-grade fever as a body temperature between 100 F (37.8 C) and 102 F (38.9 C).

A normal body temperature is about 98.6 F (37 C), with slight variations also considered normal in healthy people. These minor changes may be due to several factors, such as whether the temp is taken orally or rectally, or in the morning or the evening.

This article explains low-grade fever symptoms associated with a number of infections or other possible causes. It offers tips on how to manage a fever and how to know when to call a healthcare provider.

Low-Grade Fever Symptoms

Outside of an elevated body temperature in the range described above, some people with a low-grade fever won’t have any noticeable symptoms. Others may experience:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lower urine output

Most low-grade fevers run their course in a few days and don’t require medical attention.

A low-grade fever is generally not cause for concern unless it is persistent and/or accompanied by other, more serious symptoms, like vomiting or pain.

What Causes a Low-Grade Fever?

A fever—even a low-grade one—is a sign that something is wrong with your body. It indicates that your immune system is mounting a defense against a foreign invader, be it a virus, bacterium, or other matter.

Experts aren’t exactly sure why the body responds to infections and illnesses with a raised body temperature, but they think some disease-causing germs are less likely to thrive in higher temperatures.

Experts also theorize that increased body temperatures might better enable certain immune cells to seek out and destroy whatever is attacking the body.

Low-Grade Fever: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment (1)

How the Immune System Keeps You Healthy

Infections

Both viral and bacterial infections can cause low-grade fevers. Some common culprits include:

  • Rhinoviruses (aka the common cold)
  • Flu
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Chickenpox (varicella-zoster virus)
  • Rubella (also called German measles)
  • COVID-19
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Ear infections
  • Strep throat
  • Cellulitis, an infection of the skin and the tissues around it
  • Sinus infections

Other common causes include:

  • Infectious mononucleosis (mono), a highly contagious illness that usually affects teens and young adults. It’s often caused by infection with the Epstein-Barr virus.
  • Viral gastroenteritis (otherwise known as the stomach flu). Examples of these include the rotavirus, common in babies, and norovirus, which generally affects adults and is highly contagious.
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacterial infection. Some strains of E.coli that live in the intestines are harmless, while others can produce serious illness.

E. Coli: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Non-Infectious Illnesses

Certain autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, can display a low-grade fever. In fact, up to 86% of people with lupus experience fever, usually a low-grade one.

Some malignant tumors (cancers) can cause cellular changes in the body that produce fevers. What’s more, the chemotherapy used to treat some cancers can destroy your body’s disease-fighting white blood cells, making you more susceptible to infections and the fevers that come with them.

Other Causes

Other causes of low-grade fever include:

(Video) Low Grade Fever - Causes and Diagnostic Approach

  • Stress: Stress causes low-grade fever in some people. Young women, notably, respond to stress with higher core body temperatures. This is known as psychogenic fever.
  • Vaccines: Low-grade fever is a common side effect of many vaccines, including the flu shot and childhood immunizations. The fever is a sign your body is building immunity to the disease.
  • Sensitivity to certain drugs: Some fevers can be attributed to adverse reactions to certain drugs, including antibiotics and drugs that treat seizures. These "drug fevers" have been seen during treatment of COVID-19, and with certain cancer treatments.
  • Menstruation: Research shows an increase in basal body temperature of between 0.3 C and 0.7 C (roughly about 0.4 F) during and immediately after ovulation.

Persistent Low-Grade Fever

A persistent low-grade fever doesn't go away or recurs intermittently over a period of weeks.

If the temperature is equal to or higher than 101 F(38.3 C) without explanation, it may be called a fever of unknown origin (FUO). This can be a sign of a serious condition, including certain cancers.

In some cases, you may have a fever and no other symptoms. Contact your healthcare provider to diagnose a persistent low-grade fever in adults or children.

Taking a Temperature

You may look flushed and feel warm when you have a fever, but the only way to accurately know your temperature is to measure it with a thermometer.

Digital thermometers, placed under the tongue or with the tip inserted into the anus (rectal temperature-taking is recommended for babies and very young children) offer the most reliable readings.

Don't relay on touch when trying to figure out if you or someone else has a fever. This method can cause you to miss or underestimate fever. This happens in up to 40% of people, even when the fever is as high as 102 F (38.9 C).

Thermometers placed under the armpit (called axillary) can give inaccurate readings. The same is true for plastic strip, smartphone temperature apps, and pacifier thermometers.

Thermometers that scan the forehead or are placed inside the ear (called tympanic) are OK to use, but don't use a tympanic thermometer if you're taking the temperature of baby younger than 3 months of age or anyone with an ear infection.

How to Use a Thermometer to Check for Fever

Treatment

The general rule of thumb is to treat a low-grade fever only if it’s causing you discomfort. And some experts say that doesn’t happen until a temperature hits 102 F (38.9 C) to 103 F (39.4 C) and higher.

There’s also a pretty vocal school of thought that says when you suppress a fever, you also suppress the immune system’s production of disease-busting white blood cells, thereby prolonging the illness.

When you want to treat a low-grade fever, Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Advil (ibuprofen) are good choices. Follow the package directions for proper dosage, or ask your healthcare provider.

Aspirin is another option, but never give aspirin to children or teens unless instructed by your healthcare provider. Aspirin use in this age group has been associated with a serious and potentially deadly disorder called Reye’s syndrome.

Self-help measures include:

(Video) Fever in Adults: The Causes, Diagnosis, Prevention, and Treatment | Merck Manual Consumer Version

  • Staying hydrated, because fevers can cause dehydration as your body loses water through sweating or rapid breathing
  • Resting
  • Wearing light clothing
  • Eating light, easy-to-digest foods, such as broth-based soups

Should I Go to Work With a Fever of 99 Degrees?

If you can stay home, it's probably best you do. That's especially true if you don't yet know what's causing the fever or if your illness is contagious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges all workers with a fever of 100 F (37.8 C) to stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone.

How Fever Is Treated

When to Should I Be Concerned About a Low-Grade Fever?

Call your healthcare provider or make a trip to the emergency room if any of the following apply to you or someone you’re caring for:

  • You have a baby under 3 months of age with any fever. Don’t give fever-reducing medicines, such as Infants’ Tylenol, without consulting your healthcare provider.
  • You have a fever and a stiff neck. This is a symptom of a life-threatening condition called meningitis, which affects the brain and spinal cord.
  • You have a fever and a rash. The two combined can indicate some serious conditions, such as toxic shock syndrome and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
  • You’re feeling dehydrated. Signs include dry mouth, dry skin, sunken eyes and dark urine.
  • Your child has a fever and experiences a seizure. Fevers—especially ones that rise quickly—can sometimes trigger what’s known as febrile seizures in young children.
  • You feel very sick. For example, you're unable to get out of bed.
  • You have a fever and severe pain or inflammation anywhere in your body.
  • You have pain when you urinate or your urine is foul-smelling. This may be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI) that needs treatment with an antibiotic.
  • You’re disoriented. You may feel dizzy, lightheaded, or even experience hallucinations.
  • It won't go away. A fever that lasts more than two days is a sign you need to be evaluated.

A Word From Verywell

Fevers of any kind can be stressful. But it’s important to remember that most low-grade fevers are harmless and run their course in a few days or less. Call your healthcare provider if you’re worried about symptoms or simply want to ask for advice and reassurance.

Frequently Asked Questions

13 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Cedars Sinai. Fever.

  2. Seattle Children’s. Fever — myths versus facts.

  3. Walter EJ, Hanna-Jumma S, Carraretto M, Forni L. The pathophysiological basis and consequences of fever. Critical Care. 2016;20:200. doi:10.1186/s13054-016-1375-5

  4. The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. Is normal body temperature no longer 98.6.

  5. Timlin H, Syed A, Haque U, Adler B, Law G, Machireddy K, Manno R. Fevers in adult lupus patients. Cureus. 2018;10(1):e2098. doi:10.7759/cureus.2098

  6. Oka T. Psychogenic fever: how psychological stress affects body temperature in the clinical population. Temperature. 2015;2(3). doi:10.1080/23328940.2015.1056907

  7. Zhang X, Zhao M, Zheng C. Drug fever induced by carboplatin-based regimens: Higher incidence in a women's hospital. Taiwan J Obstet Gynecol. 2021 Sep;60(5):882-887. doi:10.1016/j.tjog.2021.07.018.

  8. Baker FC, Siboza F, Fuller A. Temperature regulation in women: Effects of the menstrual cycle. Temperature (Austin). 2020 Mar 22;7(3):226-262. doi:10.1080/23328940.2020.1735927.

  9. Batra P, Saha A, Faridi MM. Thermometry in children.J Emerg Trauma Shock. 2012;5(3):246-249. doi:10.4103/0974-2700.99699

  10. Nemours. How to take your child's temperature.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stay Home When You Are Sick.

  12. Seattle Children’s. Fever (0-12 Months).

  13. John Hopkins Medicine. Coronavirus symptoms: Frequently asked questions.

Additional Reading

(Video) What is a Low Grade Fever? | Vicks

  • Del Bene VE. Clinical Methods: The history, physical, and laboratory examinations. Chapter 218: Temperature.(3rd edition). Boston: Butterworths.

(Video) Fever of Unknown Origin (FUO) - Causes. Unexplained Fever, Low grade fever

Low-Grade Fever: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment (2)

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FAQs

What is a low-grade fever and what causes it? ›

A low-grade fever happens when your body temperature is elevated, but still under 100.4°F. Some causes of a low-grade fever include the common cold, the flu, a stomach virus, or a UTI. But a low-grade fever in itself isn't necessarily a reason to worry, since a slightly elevated temperature won't hurt your body.

Does a low-grade fever need to be treated? ›

A low-grade fever usually doesn't require treatment, unless the fever is occurring in a very young infant, or if it's accompanied by other worrisome symptoms, such as confusion or the inability to eat or drink without vomiting.

How do you treat a low-grade fever? ›

Rest and drink plenty of fluids. Medication isn't needed. Call the doctor if the fever is accompanied by a severe headache, stiff neck, shortness of breath, or other unusual signs or symptoms. If you're uncomfortable, take acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or aspirin.

What is medically considered a low-grade fever? ›

While body temperatures vary, most of us have an internal temperature around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature slightly higher than that is still normal. When your temperature is between 100.4 and 102.2, you have what is considered a low grade fever.

What bacteria causes fever? ›

High fever is commonly present in many bacterial causes (e.g. Shigella, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli). Fever is often absent or low-grade in other diseases (e.g. enteropathogenic E. coli, cholera).

Can stress cause low grade fever? ›

Both acute and chronic stress can trigger fever-like symptoms, including an elevated body temperature, body chills or aches, fatigue, and flushed skin. Psychogenic fevers are rare, but they are most common in females.

Can dehydration cause fever? ›

It might sound counterintuitive, but if your body is severely dehydrated you may experience symptoms like fever or chills. Fevers can be especially dangerous, so be sure to seek immediate medical help if you are experiencing a fever.

Can an infection cause a low temperature? ›

When you have an infection, your body's temperature usually rises as it tries to fight off the bug causing the infection. Interestingly, some people see their body temperature go down (hypothermia) instead of up. This is why any change, high or low, can be a sign of sepsis.

How long can a low grade fever last? ›

“Low-grade” means that the temperature is slightly elevated — between 98.7°F and 100.4°F (37.05°C and 38.0°C) — and lasts for more than 24 hours. Persistent (chronic) fevers are typically defined as fevers lasting more than 10 to 14 days.

How long does a mild fever last? ›

Most fevers go away on their own within a few hours to days as your body beats the infection. If your fever lasts longer than 3 days, it's important to see a doctor. A recurrent fever, however slight, may be a sign of a more serious condition.

Which juice is good for fever? ›

Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, contain high levels of flavonoids and vitamin C. These decrease inflammation and boost immunity, which may help to fight a fever. Some studies suggest that a flavonoid called quercetin, which is also found in berries, may help to treat rhinovirus infections.

What can fevers be caused by? ›

Fever or elevated body temperature might be caused by:
  • A viral infection.
  • A bacterial infection.
  • Heat exhaustion.
  • Certain inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis — inflammation of the lining of your joints (synovium)
  • A cancerous (malignant) tumor.
7 May 2022

When should you seek treatment for a fever? ›

Numbers that are cause for concern: 105°F – Go to the emergency room. 103°F or higher – Contact your health care provider. 101°F or higher – If you're immunocompromised or over 65 years of age, and are concerned that you've been exposed to COVID-19, contact your health care provider.

What is the temperature of viral fever? ›

In both adults and children, we check the temperature in the oral, rectum and tympanic membrane. If the temperature in the rectum, ear or oral is higher than 100.4°F (38.0°C), it indicates a viral fever.

What are the five signs of an infection? ›

Know the Signs and Symptoms of Infection
  • Fever (this is sometimes the only sign of an infection).
  • Chills and sweats.
  • Change in cough or a new cough.
  • Sore throat or new mouth sore.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Stiff neck.
  • Burning or pain with urination.

What are the 4 types of infections? ›

Infections are common. From ear infections and the flu to COVID-19, chances are we all have had at least one at some point. Viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections can all trigger sepsis.

What viral infections cause fever? ›

Examples include viral fever caused by the common cold, adenovirus, respiratory syncytial virus infection, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus, Covid-19 virus and parainfluenza virus infection.

Can lack of sleep cause fevers? ›

A lack of sleep or sleep deprivation doesn't cause fever, but it can make you more susceptible to the flu and other illnesses. This is because sleep deprivation compromises your immune system. Research has indicated that a lack of sleep causes stress hormones to inhibit T cells in the body.

Why do I have a low grade fever every day? ›

A persistent low grade fever is a sign of an underlying issue, such as a mild infection or chronic condition. The fever may persist while the person is fighting off the infection. For the most part, persistent low grade fevers are not a cause for concern.

Is fever a symptom of anxiety? ›

Yes. In some rare cases, anxiety symptoms may lead to a rise in body temperature. This is sometimes referred to as psychogenic fever, or a fever caused by psychological reasons.

What are the top 3 antibiotics? ›

The main types of antibiotics include: Penicillins - for example, phenoxymethylpenicillin, flucloxacillin and amoxicillin. Cephalosporins - for example, cefaclor, cefadroxil and cefalexin. Tetracyclines - for example, tetracycline, doxycycline and lymecycline.

How do I know if my fever is viral or bacterial? ›

Bacterial infections are caused by bacteria, while viral infections are caused by viruses.
...
Bacterial Infections
  1. Symptoms persist longer than the expected 10-14 days a virus tends to last.
  2. Fever is higher than one might typically expect from a virus.
  3. Fever gets worse a few days into the illness rather than improving.
21 Nov 2019

What is treatment of viral fever? ›

Common treatment methods include: taking over-the-counter fever reducers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to reduce a fever and its symptoms. resting as much as possible. drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and replenish fluids lost while sweating.

What are 3 warning signs of dehydration? ›

Symptoms of dehydration in adults and children include:
  • feeling thirsty.
  • dark yellow and strong-smelling pee.
  • feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
  • feeling tired.
  • a dry mouth, lips and eyes.
  • peeing little, and fewer than 4 times a day.

What are 2 warning signs of dehydration? ›

Some of the early warning signs of dehydration include:
  • feeling thirsty and lightheaded.
  • a dry mouth.
  • tiredness.
  • having dark coloured, strong-smelling urine.
  • passing urine less often than usual.
14 Apr 2022

What are 3 symptoms of severe dehydration? ›

Signs of severe dehydration include:
  • Not peeing or having very dark yellow pee.
  • Very dry skin.
  • Feeling dizzy.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Sunken eyes.
  • Sleepiness, lack of energy, confusion or irritability.
  • Fainting.
20 May 2021

What are the 6 signs of sepsis? ›

These can include:
  • feeling dizzy or faint.
  • a change in mental state – like confusion or disorientation.
  • diarrhoea.
  • nausea and vomiting.
  • slurred speech.
  • severe muscle pain.
  • severe breathlessness.
  • less urine production than normal – for example, not urinating for a day.
14 Jul 2022

What are the early warning signs of sepsis? ›

The signs and symptoms of sepsis can include a combination of any of the following:
  • confusion or disorientation,
  • shortness of breath,
  • high heart rate,
  • fever, or shivering, or feeling very cold,
  • extreme pain or discomfort, and.
  • clammy or sweaty skin.
31 Aug 2017

What are the main symptoms of sepsis? ›

How to spot sepsis in adults
  • Slurred speech or confusion.
  • Extreme shivering or muscle pain.
  • Passing no urine (in a day)
  • Severe breathlessness.
  • It feels like you're going to die.
  • Skin mottled or discoloured.

Why fever is coming again and again? ›

A recurring fever is one of the main symptom of a group of diseases called periodic fever syndrome. There are several types of periodic fever syndromes, including: Familial Mediterranean fever (FMF). Tumor necrosis factor receptor associated periodic syndrome (TRAPS).

Can inflammation cause a low-grade fever? ›

A low grade fever may also appear and can indicate inflammation. It occurs when the immune system is reacting to a threat. A long lasting, low grade fever is a common symptom of some inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, such as lupus.

What could cause fever for 5 days? ›

Most of those are probably viruses for which we don't have or don't think to run specific tests. Bacterial infections can also cause long-standing fever. Rheumatologic - Less commonly, children with prolonged fever can have rheumatologic causes, an example is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

What is the fastest way to get rid of a fever? ›

Self-treatment suggestions for fever
  1. Take paracetamol or ibuprofen in appropriate doses to help bring your temperature down.
  2. Drink plenty of fluids, particularly water.
  3. Avoid alcohol, tea and coffee as these drinks can cause slight dehydration.
  4. Sponge exposed skin with tepid water. ...
  5. Avoid taking cold baths or showers.

How long can viral fever last? ›

Most fevers caused by a virus last for 3 to 4 days, although some can last as little as 1 day, and others, such as one caused by Dengue fever, can last up to 10 days or more. Viral fevers can range in temperature from 99°F (37.2°C) to over 103°F (39.4°C), depending on the underlying virus.

Is Apple good in fever? ›

Fresh fruits: Fruits like apples, oranges, watermelon, pineapple, kiwi are rich in vitamin C. This contains antioxidants that reduce fever.

Is banana good for fever? ›

Bananas. Bananas are a great food to eat when you're sick. They're soft and bland but rich in nutrients and fast-acting carbs. The potassium in bananas can help replenish your electrolyte stores as well, since potassium is one of the key electrolytes your body needs ( 34 , 35 ).

Does sleep help with fever? ›

Sleeping will not necessarily make a fever go away faster, but it will help your immune system work better. And that could make your cold, flu, or infection clear up more quickly – which will get rid of the fever, too. So rest up when you have a fever. You'll be doing your body a favor.

What are symptoms of a fever? ›

The main symptoms of a fever include: Elevated temperature (above 100.4°). Chills, shivering, shaking. Body aches and headaches.

Is 99.7 a fever? ›

An adult probably has a fever when the temperature is above 99°F to 99.5°F (37.2°C to 37.5°C), depending on the time of day.

Is a temperature of 99.5 normal? ›

Normal body temperature ranges from 97.5°F to 99.5°F (36.4°C to 37.4°C). It tends to be lower in the morning and higher in the evening. Most healthcare providers consider a fever to be 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. A person with a temperature of 99.6°F to 100.3°F has a low-grade fever.

What is fever types of fever? ›

Range
Temperature°F°C
Mid- to low-grade fever100.5-102.238.1-39
Moderate-grade fever102.2-104.039.1-40
High-grade fever104.1-106.040.1-41.1
Hyperpyrexiaover 106.0over 41.1
5 Dec 2017

What are the symptoms of a viral infection? ›

If it's a viral illness, typically symptoms are shorter lasting and classically the symptoms include fever, chills, sore throat, nasal congestion, runny nose, cough, and a lot of times you can have some body aches. A lot of times the symptoms last for maybe three days to a week and then slowly get better over time.

How long does viral infection last? ›

A viral infection usually lasts only a week or two. But when you're feeling rotten, this can seem like a long time! Here are some tips to help ease symptoms and get better faster: Rest.

Does antibiotics help in viral fever? ›

Giving Antibiotics for Viral Infections: What Happens? If your child has a virus, an antibiotic won't get rid of the fever. It will not help the other symptoms. The drug will not get your child back to school sooner.

Can a fever be caused by allergies? ›

Allergies cannot cause a fever, but they may indirectly lead to a fever if people develop a sinus infection. Additionally, conditions such as viral infections, including the flu and common cold, can cause fever alongside allergy-like symptoms.

Can a person have a fever with allergies? ›

Allergies do not cause a fever, but they can trigger a sinus infection that can cause a fever. Viral infections that cause the flu and the common cold can cause a fever. Seek medical help if you have a lingering fever for an accurate diagnosis and treatment options.

Can a sore throat give you a fever? ›

A sore throat that starts quickly, pain with swallowing, and fever are some of the common signs and symptoms of strep throat.

Can you get a fever from a headache? ›

Migraine does not cause a fever. If a severe headache and fever occur together, it is likely due to another health condition, which may be infectious. A migraine headache involves severe pain that generally starts on one side of the head.

What can cause a fever? ›

Causes
  • A viral infection.
  • A bacterial infection.
  • Heat exhaustion.
  • Certain inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis — inflammation of the lining of your joints (synovium)
  • A cancerous (malignant) tumor.
  • Some medications, such as antibiotics and drugs used to treat high blood pressure or seizures.
7 May 2022

Is 99.5 a low-grade fever? ›

Normal body temperature ranges from 97.5°F to 99.5°F (36.4°C to 37.4°C). It tends to be lower in the morning and higher in the evening. Most healthcare providers consider a fever to be 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. A person with a temperature of 99.6°F to 100.3°F has a low-grade fever.

Can dairy give you a fever? ›

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

Seek prompt medical care if you, or someone you are with, have any of these serious symptoms including: Abdominal swelling, distension or bloating. High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit) Severe abdominal pain.

Does Omicron start with a sore throat? ›

Compared to other SARS-CoV-2 variants, the Omicron variant is associated with generally less severe symptoms that may include fatigue, cough, headache, sore throat or a runny nose.

What is the best antibiotic for throat infection? ›

Doctors most often prescribe penicillin or amoxicillin (Amoxil) to treat strep throat. They are the top choices because they're safer, inexpensive, and they work well on strep bacteria.

What is the best medicine for sore throat and fever? ›

A sore throat caused by a viral infection usually lasts five to seven days and doesn't usually require medical treatment. Antibiotics don't help treat a viral infection. To ease pain and fever, many people turn to acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or other mild pain relievers.

How long should a fever last? ›

Most fevers go away on their own within a few hours to days as your body beats the infection. If your fever lasts longer than 3 days, it's important to see a doctor. A recurrent fever, however slight, may be a sign of a more serious condition.

What would cause a low-grade fever and headache? ›

Influenza, commonly known as “the flu,” and the common cold can cause fever and headache. Both are caused by viruses that spread easily from person to person. The flu can cause mild symptoms or severe illness.

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