Fevers can be downright unpleasant. Nobody likes feeling hot — or chilled — listless, and achy. As uncomfortable as they are, though, it’s important to remember that when you’re sick a fever isn’t working against you, but for you.
By raising your temperature, your immune system is making your body an uncomfortable place for viruses, bacterial infections, or other bugs to live. This can shorten the duration of your illness, help antibiotic or other medications to do their job, and even make you less contagious.
If your fever is below 103° F (or 102° F for children), it’s usually best to just let it run its course. There are a few things you can do to to make yourself a little more comfortable until you’re feeling like yourself again, though. Here’s a look at just a few:
Drink Fluids: Fevers cause dehydration, and dehydration can make fevers worse. Break the cycle by drinking plenty of fresh water or fruit juice. Vegetable juice or broth are also good options, but be sure to choose low sodium options. Too much salt will just worsen your dehydration.
Suck on Some Ice: If you feel too sick to drink, sucking on ice can be a gentler, and cooler, way to get your fluids. You can freeze fruit juices into an ice cube for a little extra nutrition, or to add flavor for a finicky child.
Try a Cold Compress: If your fever rises above 103° F, apply a cool compress to areas where the heat is greatest, such as your armpits and groin. You can also sponge these areas — and your entire body — off with cool water.
Take a Lukewarm Bath: Sitting in a room temperature tub for a while can make you feel more comfortable.
Wear Layers: It can be hard to stay comfortable when you have a fever. You can alternate from feeling overheated one minute to feeling chilled the next. If you wear layers and keep several blankets nearby, you can take off extra blankets and clothes when you feel hot, which will allow excess body heat to escape. Then, you’ll have them handy bundle up again if you get a chill.
Drink Linden Tea: This herbal tea can induce sweating, which can help your fever to break.
But wait! Should you feed a fever or starve one? Doctors say you should eat if you feel hungry, but don’t force it if you don’t. Just be smart about it.
And, remember, never give a child aspirin, because aspirin can trigger Reye’s syndrome, a potentially fatal neurological illness, in children. Use children’s strength acetaminophen (Tylenol, or a generic) instead.
Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.