Senior fever: When to be concerned about a fever

BHC fever main.jpgWhen someone says they feel sick, the first thing we do is put a hand on their forehead to feel for a fever.

But for seniors, a fever may be the first sign that something is wrong.

A fever is a temporary increase in body temperature that can result from a variety of causes. While 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is considered normal, it can vary slightly from person to person and fluctuate slightly in a single person and still be regarded as normal.

Seniors typically have lower body temperatures than younger people, so make sure you have a baseline reading of what is typical for your senior loved one.

Body temperature rises in reaction to illness or infection. In younger people, fevers without a known cause are so common they have their own designation as “fevers of undetermined origin” or FUO.

But FUOs are less common in seniors, and fevers should be taken more seriously. A fever for an older person can mean:

  • Viral infection, such as the flu
  • Bacterial infection, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Infections in wounds, including bed sores
  • Skin infections such as shingles or fungal infections
  • Chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Prescription medications
  • Gastrointestinal infections
  • Heat stress
  • Malignant growths
  • Sepsis

Seek medical attention if a senior’s fever reaches 103 F (39.4 C) or higher. Get immediate medical help if the fever is accompanied by:

  • Headache
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Vomiting
  • A sudden rash

For the most accurate reading of a senior’s temperature, use a digital in the mouth or under the arm. If their temperature seems abnormal, take several readings over the course of 15 minutes to get a consistent reading.

Belvedere Home Care can visit your senior loved one and monitor their health on a schedule that works for you. Ongoing monitoring of temperature and vital signs can help catch illnesses early for faster, easier treatment. For more information, contact us at (518) 694-9400 Option 4 or