Do you or your loved one have a fever? The good news is you probably have nothing to worry about. Fevers are extremely common and often occur due to a virus like a cold or flu, though they’re more common in people who have the flu.
They usually occur when the body is working to fight an infection in order to protect itself.3–5 As with other cold and flu symptoms, a fever is a sign that something out of the ordinary is going on in your body.
Fevers that are caused by cold viruses or flu viruses can last 3-4 days, and unfortunately, a fever—especially a high-grade fever (over 103°F)—can feel quite uncomfortable. If you are suffering from a fever and want some relief, here are some tips for how to reduce a fever – at home or with medicine.
Natural or alternative treatment for your cold or flu symptoms
Take a Steamy ShowerSteamy showers moisturize your nasal passages and may help you relax. If you’re dizzy from the flu, run a steamy shower while you sit on a chair nearby and take a sponge bath.
Drink Hot LiquidsHot liquids relieve nasal congestion, prevent dehydration, and soothe the uncomfortably inflamed membranes that line your nose and throat. If you’re so congested that you can’t sleep at night, try a hot toddy, an age-old remedy. Make a cup of hot herbal tea. Add one teaspoon of honey and one small shot (about 1 ounce) of whiskey or bourbon. Limit yourself to one. Too much alcohol will inflame the membranes and make you feel worse.
Gargling can moisten a sore throat and bring temporary relief. Gargle with half a teaspoon of salt dissolved in 8 ounces warm water, four times daily.
To reduce the tickle in your throat, try an astringent gargle — such as tea that contains tannin — to tighten the membranes. Or use a thick, viscous gargle made with honey or honey and apple cider vinegar. Seep one tablespoon of raspberry leaves or lemon juice in two cups of hot water; mix with one teaspoon of honey. Let the mixture cool to room temperature before gargling.
Stay Warm and RestedStaying warm and resting when you first come down with a cold or the flu helps your body direct its energy toward the immune battle. This battle taxes the body. So give it a little help by resting.
Treat That Stuffy Nose With Warm Salt Water
Salt-water rinsing helps break nasal congestion, while also removing virus particles and bacteria from your nose. Here’s a popular recipe:
Mix 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in 8 ounces of distilled, sterile or previously boiled water. Use a bulb syringe or nasal irrigation kit to squirt water into the nose. Hold one nostril closed by applying light finger pressure while squirting the salt mixture into the other nostril. Let it drain. Repeat two to three times, then treat the other nostril.
Blow Your Nose Often (and the Right Way)It’s important to blow your nose regularly when you have a cold rather than sniffling mucus back into your head. But when you blow hard, pressure can carry germ-carrying phlegm back into your ear passages, causing earache. The best way to blow your nose: Press a finger over one nostril while you blow gently to clear the other.
Know When not to Treat Symptoms
Believe it or not, those annoying symptoms you’re experiencing are part of the natural healing process — evidence that the immune system is battling illness. For instance, a fever is your body’s way of trying to kill viruses by creating a hotter-than-normal environment. Also, a fever’s hot environment makes germ-killing proteins in your blood circulate more quickly and effectively. Thus, if you endure a moderate fever for a day or two, you may actually get well faster. Coughing is another productive symptom; it clears your breathing passages of thick mucus that can carry germs to your lungs and the rest of your body. Even that stuffy nose is best treated mildly or not at all. A decongestant, like Sudafed, restricts flow to the blood vessels in your nose and throat. But often you want the increase blood flow because it warms the infected area and helps secretions carry germs out of your body.
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Use a Salve Under Your NoseA small dab of mentholated salve under your nose can help to open breathing passages and restore the irritated skin at the base of the nose. Menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor all have mild numbing ingredients that may help relieve the pain of a nose rubbed raw. However, only put it on the outside, under your nose, not inside your nose.
Apply Hot or Cold Packs Around Your Congested SinusesEither temperature works. You can buy reusable hot or cold packs at a drugstore or make your own. You can apply heat by taking a damp washcloth and heating it for 55 seconds in a microwave (test the temperature first to make sure it’s not too hot.) A small bag of frozen peas works well as a cold pack.
Sleep With an Extra Pillow Under Your HeadElevating your head will help relieve congested nasal passages. If the angle is too awkward, try placing the pillows between the mattress and the box springs to create a more gradual slope.
Don’t Fly Unless NecessaryThere’s no point adding stress to your already stressed-out upper respiratory system, and that’s what the change in air pressure will do. Flying with cold or flu congestion can temporarily damage your eardrums as a result of pressure changes during takeoff and landing. If you must fly, use a decongestant and carry a nasal spray with you to use just before takeoff and landing. Chewing gum and swallowing frequently can also help relieve pressure.
Eat Infection-Fighting Foods
Here are some good foods to eat when you’re battling a cold or flu:
- Bananas and rice to soothe an upset stomach and curb diarrhea
- Vitamin C-containing foods like bell peppers
- Blueberries curb diarrhea and are high in natural aspirin, which may lower fevers and help with aches and pains
- Carrots, which contain beta-carotene
- Chili peppers may open sinuses, and help break up mucus in the lungs
- Cranberries may help prevent bacteria from sticking to cells lining the bladder and urinary tract
- Mustard or horseradish may helps break up mucus in air passages
- Onions contain phytochemicals purported to help the body clear bronchitis and other infections
- Black and green tea contain catechin, a phytochemical purported to have natural antibiotic and anti-diarrhea effects
Remember, serious conditions, such as sinus infections, bronchitis , meningitis, strep throat, and asthma, can look like the common cold . If you have severe symptoms, or don’t seem to be getting better, call your doctor.
Over-the-Counter Medicines that Reduce Fever
A fever is not a pleasant symptom to experience. The chills, shivering, and headaches can become uncomfortable enough that you want relief. Keep over-the-counter medicines on hand with active ingredients that can reduce fever. Acetaminophen, for example is an over-the-counter medication that is approved for use against fever, even in children.10
Acetaminophen is a commonly used drug for reducing fever that also relieves minor aches and pains. But you may find that when you have a cold or flu, there are more symptoms that you need relief from, like coughing or nasal congestion.
Many over-the-counter cold and flu medicines treat multiple symptoms, including fever. Make sure to identify what other symptoms you may be experiencing along with fever, if any, so you can get the relief you need. Keep reading for Vicks products that can help reduce fever, along with other common cold and flu symptoms.
When to see a doctor
It is important to recognize that not all fevers are the same. While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define a fever as a temperature at or above 100.4°F (38°C), low-grade fevers that involve lower temperatures and more mild symptoms are often much less of a concern than high-grade fevers.
While fevers can be beneficial because they can help to kill off problematic invading viruses, high fevers can be damaging to our bodies, so monitoring the level of your fever when you have one is important.
It is generally recommended that you see a doctor if you are experiencing any of the following:
- If your temperature reaches 104°F or higher.
- If you have fever or cough symptoms that improve, then get worse.
- If your fever is accompanied by a severe muscle pain, mental confusion, or any other out-of-the ordinary symptoms.
The fastest and most reliable way to determine if you have a fever and how significant that fever may be is to take your temperature with an easy-to-use at-home thermometer. Determining the severity of your fever can help you delineate what may be causing the fever and help you understand the best course of action to take to restore your health, and when to see your healthcare provider.
Fevers can occur for a variety of reasons but are often the result of a virus like a cold or flu. There are several things you can try to reduce your fever and relieve any other common symptoms. One category of these options is home remedies, such as ones that help to physically cool your body and bring your temperature down based on your external environment. Another category is over-the-counter medicines that can work by combatting fever-causing mechanisms in your body. It may also be beneficial to combine physical interventions with drugs that can help to break your fever.
Regardless of how you choose to address your fever, monitoring your fever is important for obtaining information regarding the underlying cause and severity of your condition. In cases of high or persistent fevers, or fevers accompanied by severe symptoms, you should seek medical attention.
Hopefully, you’ll now be able to reduce your fever associated with your cold or flu. For your other cold or flu symptoms, take a look at some great cold remedies and flu treatments—and get well soon!