Fevers in Seniors: What Caregivers Should Know

Last Updated : 12/03/20193 min read

If you provide care for a senior citizen, you may be concerned if the senior appears feverish. Fevers are usually signs of infection, according to the Mayo Clinic. Learn more about what causes fevers in seniors in when you should seek medical attention for fevers.

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What is a fever? 

A fever is a temporary increase in body temperature, according to the Mayo Clinic. Normal body temperature is 98.6 (37 C) but can vary by a degree or more and still be considered normal. Temperatures as low as 97 F (36.1 C) and as high as 99 F (37.2 C) can all be considered normal. Generally, seniors have lower body temperatures than younger people have, according to the Mayo Clinic.

How do I take a temperature reading?

You can take a senior’s temperature reading with a digital thermometer in the mouth or under the arm according to the Cleveland Clinic. When taking an oral reading, instruct the senior to not eat or drink at least five minutes prior to taking their temperature.

What causes fevers in seniors?

A fever in seniors may be caused a virus or bacterial infection. Fevers are also caused by heat exhaustion, rheumatoid arthritis, medications used to treat high blood pressure, and malignant tumors, according to the Mayo Clinic. Be aware if you care for a senior citizen who has a medical condition that limits their ability to change positions. A fever may be a sign of a bed sore or pressure ulcer that has become infected. A fever may also be a sign of a bladder infection, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Seniors with indwelling urinary catheters are more likely to develop a urinary tract infection, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seniors are also more prone to heat stress than younger people. A body temperature of 103 F or higher is a sign of heat stroke. Fever may also be a sign of sepsis, which is most common in seniors and can be fatal, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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When should I seek medical attention for a senior with a fever?

According to the Mayo Clinic, a fever in a senior is a cause for concern when it reaches 103 F (39.4 C) or higher. Seek immediate medical attention for the senior in your care if he experiences, in addition to a fever:

  • A severe headache
  • Mental confusion
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • An unusual or rapidly worsening rash

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