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Yes, running a fever can be dangerous during pregnancy. But you can reduce the risks by getting your fever down as soon as you can.
Here’s how can you tell if you have a fever:
- Your temperature is higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Centigrade) when you take it by mouth.
- Your temperature is higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 degrees Centigrade) when you take it rectally or by ear.
If you have a fever, talk to your healthcare provider and see if you can identify the cause – and if treatment is needed, get started on it right away.
Your baby's normal development hinges on a sequence of steps that allow the organs and blood vessels to grow at the right time. That series of steps depends on proteins – molecules in the body that make important changes happen.
If you have a fever for long enough, it could keep the proteins from working properly and contribute to a miscarriage. In rare cases, it can cause birth defects.
In some studies, fever during the first trimester has been linked to an increase in the risk of cleft palate, heart defects, and neural tube defects. These studies did not consider the underlying cause of the fevers, however, so we don’t know whether the defects were caused by the fever itself or by whatever was causing the fever, such as an infection. More research is needed to sort this out.
In the meantime, taking acetaminophen to lower a fever can help reduce the risks. And you'll feel better, too!
Learn about the safety of acetaminophen in pregnancy.
If you want to lower your fever without using medicine like acetaminophen – or just don't have any on hand – you can try these methods:
- Lie down and place a cool, damp washcloth on your forehead.
- Take a lukewarm tub bath or sponge bath. Avoid using cold water, since it can cause you to shiver, leading to a spike in temperature. Lukewarm water will work fine – your fever will fall as the water evaporates off your skin. (You may have heard that a sponge bath using rubbing alcohol will bring down a fever. Don't try this, as it can cool you down too quickly, prompting your body to reheat even further. Breathing in the vapors can be harmful, too.)
- Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and help cool your body from the inside out.
- Turn on a fan. Don't let it blow directly on you, because that could cause you to become chilled. Instead, put it on a low setting and let it circulate the air around you.
- Dress in one light layer of clothing. If you get chilled, wrap yourself in a light blanket until you're warm enough to remove it.
- Stay indoors in a cool place.
To minimize your chances of fever, take practical steps such as washing your hands often, avoiding contact with people who are sick, and getting a flu shot.