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No Thermometer, No Problem: 6 ways to tell if you have a fever

If you remember one thing about the month of December, remember this: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The holly-jolly festivities have already begun (and it’s only the first week), including everything from gift shopping, and menu planning to attending family gatherings and festive office parties, and the fun won’t stop until the New Year. While all of this holiday cheer is what makes this time of year so special, nothing drains your energy faster.

So when you’re lying in bed at the end of yet another long day, feeling totally exhausted, you may be tempted to brush the tiredness off as nothing more than festive fatigue. Unfortunately, though, it could be something more. Did someone say fever?

There’s only one way to know for sure; thank goodness for thermometers. Of course, that’s only if you can find where you stashed it the last time. But if you can’t seem to track it down, what should you do?

Tik Pau, MD, a primary care provider with GMG’s Bostock Family Medicine, provides 6 Ways To Check For Fever (and a few other tips to keep in mind):

1. Feel your forehead. Of course we had to kick-off the list with an old standby. This is a go-to method of feeling for a fever, but it isn’t necessarily the most accurate. “While we all know that a hand can’t be as precise as a thermometer, the real issue here is that many people do this incorrectly,” says Dr. Pau. “When feeling for temperature, make sure to use the back of your hand as this the most temperature-sensitive place.”

2. Check those cheeks (and skin). Is it just your imagination, or do you have a nice rosy-cheeked glow going on? Well, if you have a fever that may be the case. “Not only does your skin take on a pink or red look when you’re warm, your blood vessels also dilate with a fever, giving your cheeks a pinkish appearance,” explains Dr. Pau.

3. Monitor for dehydration. With a fever comes an elevated metabolism, which means you burn through water (and other fluids) much faster. “If you notice symptoms of dehydration, like dark urine, headache, dry mouth and thirst, this could indicate you have a fever,” notes Dr. Pau. “This is especially true if you’ve been drinking ample fluids and you still notice these signs.”

4. Assess your activity. Now we aren’t recommending that you try to exercise when you’re feeling under the weather, but routine activity can be a great way to gauge energy levels and overall strength. If you find normal activities, like going up the stairs, walking to the mailbox or perusing the aisles of the grocery store, more tiring than usual, this could mean a fever has landed. “That’s because a fever causes aches and pains, as well as general feelings of weakness,” adds Dr. Pau.

5. Ask around. Now before you assume that it’s just you that’s feeling extra warm, or getting the chills, there’s a chance that there could be another reason for why you’re feeling a certain way. Check in with those around you to see if they’re feeling the same way, or perhaps they could remind you of other possible factors. For instance, the thermostat may be colder than usual, or that hot tea may have really warmed you up.

6. Cave in and get a new thermometer. There’s no substitute for knowing, especially when it comes to your health. When in doubt, it’s best to get a thermometer—or have someone get one for you—so you can check your temperature accurately. Here are a few helpful tidbits to keep in mind:

• “If you have a temperature above your normal temperature, but below 100.4, this is called a low-grade fever,” says Dr. Pau. A low-grade fever is mild, and may not need medical attention. “Normal body temperature is 98.6, but that can vary by 1 to 2 degrees from person to person,” emphasizes Dr. Pau. Your normal temperature may also be lower in the early morning and higher in late afternoon.

• “Hot or cold food and drinks can affect the temperature reading in a person’s mouth,” notes Dr. Pau, “so you should take your oral temperature at least 20 minutes after you eat or drink anything.”

• Even if you have the chills, don’t pile on the layers as these things can raise a person’s body temperature by trapping body heat. Lightweight clothing and lightweight bed coverings are best. These allow body heat to escape and help to not raise a person’s temperature.

Fever…now what? Unfortunately, fever is one of those things that can be a symptom for almost anything. It doesn’t help that it’s also cold and flu season. So, is it a cold bug, the flu, an infection, even the result of taking a medication? The experts at GMG primary care are prepared to find out. From thorough, prompt diagnostics to comprehensive, personalized care, our health care providers will get you feeling better, faster. With convenient locations and easy, online scheduling, you can count on GMG primary care for all your winter health needs.