People with rheumatoid arthritis sometimes experience a fever. It can occur due to inflammation that relates to the condition. Fevers can also develop due to rheumatoid arthritis drugs, which can make someone more susceptible to infections.

Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) include swelling, stiffness, and joint pain that is often worse in the morning. RA complications can include inflammation in various body organs.

Some people also experience a low grade fever. In the past, fever could occur if a person had severe inflammation or if RA affected other organs. However, treatment with DMARDs and biologic drugs means this is now rare.

Fever is a common symptom of other rheumatic diseases, such as gout and systemic lupus erythematosus, or lupus. It most likely results from inflammation.

In this article, we look at why a fever might occur with RA.

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RA is an autoimmune condition, which means a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells. This causes widespread inflammation, stiffness, swelling, and joint pain.

A low grade fever may also appear and can indicate inflammation. It occurs when the immune system is reacting to a threat.

A long lasting, low grade fever is a common symptom of some inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, such as lupus.

However, a fever is less common with RA than with other rheumatic diseases. When it occurs, researchers say it tends to appear alongside aggressive disease, weight loss, and inflammation in the lining of several joints.

Can RA medication cause fever?

In some cases, using medications can lead to a fever in people with RA.

Doctors often prescribe medication that suppresses the immune system to treat RA. This can increase the risk of developing a viral or bacterial infection, which may involve a fever.

In this case, a person may notice other symptoms, depending on the type of infection.

If someone with RA has a low grade fever that lasts a long time, it may be a symptom of RA.

However, before deciding that a fever relates to RA, a doctor will need to rule out other conditions that can cause it, including viral and bacterial infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consider a person to have a fever if any of the following are true:

  • the person’s temperature is 100.4°F (38°C) or over
  • they feel warm to the touch
  • they say they have felt feverish

A fever is a symptom of a disease. A doctor may offer treatment if they identify an underlying cause for the fever.

When should people seek help for a fever?

Is RA fever the same as rheumatic fever?

A separate disease from RA is rheumatic fever. This acute condition can occur after an infection with strep throat or scarlet fever. It involves a widespread inflammatory response, joint pain, and other symptoms.

The symptoms can be similar, but the two diseases are not related.

Rheumatic fever mostly affects children aged 5–15 years, but it is rare in adults and children aged under 3 years.

Like RA, rheumatic fever affects the joints. However, unlike RA, rheumatic fever is temporary, usually lasting only a few weeks. Severe cases of rheumatic fever can result in long-term heart damage, known as rheumatic heart disease.

People can treat a mild fever at home by:

  • staying hydrated
  • getting plenty of rest
  • keeping the room cool
  • taking over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, that reduce fever

Individuals should always check with a doctor before taking any medication.

Treatments options that can help manage RA symptoms during a flare include:

If a person has a high fever that persists, they should discuss it with a doctor or seek emergency medical help.

Symptoms of RA may come and go. When symptoms are active, it is known as a flare. At other times, a person may have mild or no symptoms, which people call remission.

It is not always possible to prevent RA, but treatment aims to reduce the frequency and severity of flares. Drugs that help do this include:

These drugs suppress the immune system, reducing the risk of RA symptoms. However, they can leave a person more prone to other infections.

Lifestyle habits that may help prevent flares include:

What are some natural remedies for RA?

According to recommendations from the CDC, people should consider seeking medical attention for a fever if:

  • their temperature is 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
  • their fever has lasted for more than 48 hours
  • they have other symptoms that could indicate an infection

Additionally, individuals with RA should contact a doctor if they experience any of the following:

  • pain in new areas
  • worsening symptoms
  • adverse reactions to medication
  • joint symptoms that last more than 1–2 days

What happens during an RA flare?

Fever can be a symptom of RA. It can occur because of inflammation or because the drugs for treating the condition make people more susceptible to infections.

Anyone with a temperature higher than 100.4°F (38°C) should contact a doctor. They can investigate to see if the reason for the fever is RA or another cause.

Ways of managing a low grade fever at home include keeping cool, staying hydrated, and taking NSAIDs.