Healthy Tip Tuesday – How to check for a fever without a thermometer

The desire to confirm whether or not you or your little ones are running a fever as soon as possible is more intense than ever before.

Healthy Tip Tuesday is brought to you by Trinity Hospital Twin City.


According to most nationally recognized health organizations like the Mayo Clinic, the CDC, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, the only way to know for sure that you have a fever, a temperature above 99 to 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit, is by taking your temperature with a thermometer. However, a thermometer may not always be readily available, so what do you do?

1.) Use the back of your hand, not your palm – One of the most common ways to check for temperature is to feel the forehead with your hand. But, experts recommend using the back of your hand as your palm is not as susceptible to changes in temperature.

2.) Pay attention to the person’s face and cheeks – Another likely symptom of fever is red cheeks. They may appear redder than usual and that could be because your body is battling something.

3.) Examine the pee – Yes, seriously. While urine doesn’t change drastically, it may appear more yellow than normal indicating dehydration, which is a common symptom of fever.

4.) Take the stairs, or go for a brief walk – Another common fever symptom is exhaustion and fatigue. If you notice a quick walk causes you to feel more tired than usual, it could be a sign.

5.) Be on alert for other aches and pains – It’s common that aches and pains tag along with fever. If you notice you feel sore in other places, it could be another indicator that you may have a fever.

When to see a doctor, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Fevers by themselves may not be a cause for alarm — or a reason to call a doctor. Yet there are some circumstances when you should seek medical advice for your baby, your child, or yourself.


Unexplained fever is a greater cause for concern in infants and in children than in adults. Call your baby’s doctor if your child is:

  • Younger than age 3 months and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher.
  • Between ages 3 and 6 months and has a rectal temperature up to 102 F (38.9 C) and seems unusually irritable, lethargic or uncomfortable or has a temperature higher than 102 F (38.9 C).
  • Between ages 6 and 24 months and has a rectal temperature higher than 102 F (38.9 C) that lasts longer than one day but shows no other symptoms. If your child also has other signs and symptoms, such as a cold, cough or diarrhea, you might call your child’s doctor sooner based on severity.


There’s probably no cause for alarm if your child has a fever but is responsive — making eye contact with you and responding to your facial expressions and to your voice — and is drinking fluids and playing.

Call your child’s doctor if your child:

  • Is listless or irritable, vomits repeatedly, has a severe headache or stomachache, or has any other symptoms causing significant discomfort.
  • Has a fever after being left in a hot car. Seek medical care immediately.
  • Has a fever that lasts longer than three days.
  • Appears listless and has poor eye contact with you.

Ask your child’s doctor for guidance in special circumstances, such as a child with immune system problems or with a pre-existing illness.


Call your doctor if your temperature is 103 F (39.4 C) or higher. Seek immediate medical attention if any of these signs or symptoms accompanies a fever:

  • Severe headache
  • Unusual skin rash, especially if the rash rapidly worsens
  • Unusual sensitivity to bright light
  • Stiff neck and pain when you bend your head forward
  • Mental confusion
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing or chest pain
  • Abdominal pain or pain when urinating
  • Convulsions or seizures

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