ZocdocAnswersWhen should someone with a fever seek medical attention?

Question

When should someone with a fever seek medical attention?

My boyfriend has had a fever for over 24 hours. He doesn't believe it's anything serious, but I'm not so sure - a friend of ours was recently hospitalized with something similar. So at what point should someone with a fever seek medical attention? 24 hours? Two days? Three days?

Answer

Fever is a very non-specific symptom, meaning that it can be caused by a long and varied list of illnesses and conditions. Many infectious diseases can lead to a fever, including everything from the flu to a much more serious infection such as bacteria in the blood or central nervous system (such as meningitis). Non-infectious diseases can also lead to fever, including autoimmune disease (such as rheumatoid arthritis), malignancy, blood clots, endocrine disorders and medications. Typically a complete and detailed history and physical exam performed by your doctor will lead to the underlying cause. Sometimes further testing may be needed to help establish the underlying cause; this may include blood work or imaging. Since the list of conditions that causes fever is so long, it is impossible to say exactly when it is important to seek medical attention. Given that there is no clear reason for your boyfriend's symptoms, it would be advisable for him to see his primary care physician now, so that any potentially serious conditions can be ruled out and/or treated at an early stage.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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