A person can tell if they have a fever at home with a thermometer. There are also ways of testing for fever without one, such as looking for symptoms like flushed cheeks and changes in urine color.

A fever occurs when the body’s temperature rises above 100.4ºF (38°C) for a sustained period.

A person may be able to check for a fever at home. However, those with a very high fever or a fever that does not go away should contact a doctor.

Read on to learn about how to check for a fever at home and what signs and symptoms to look out for.

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A person’s forehead may feel very hot when they have a fever.

Checking for a fever is straightforward when a person has a thermometer.

There are a few different types of thermometers available. The following sections will describe these in more detail. It is also important to follow the manufacturer’s directions for the specific thermometer.

Oral thermometer

Oral thermometers measure the temperature in the mouth. Most modern oral thermometers are digital. They usually beep when they complete a reading, making them very easy for most people to use.

Oral thermometers are easier to use in adults, as they require a person to close their mouth and keep the thermometer in place for about 20 seconds to get an accurate reading.

The thermometer should rest under the tongue and as close to the center of the mouth as possible. After taking the reading, it will display the person’s temperature.

Ear thermometer

Ear thermometers measure the temperature of the eardrum. They are more common in doctors’ offices, but at-home versions are also available.

Ear thermometers can give results within a few seconds. This makes them a good option when dealing with very young children, who may find it difficult to sit still for a prolonged period of time.

However, ear thermometers can give less accurate readings than other types.

To use an ear thermometer, hold the device up to the ear, with the sensor pointing inward, down the ear canal toward the eardrum. Turn on the thermometer, and wait for it to signal that the reading is complete.

Forehead thermometer

Forehead thermometers are becoming more popular for home use. They tend to be accurate, but not as accurate as rectal thermometers.

Forehead thermometers are a good option for use in children, as they do not require them to sit still for a long time.

There are two different versions available. One type, when a person places it on the temporal artery on the side of the forehead, uses infrared light to measure a person’s temperature.

The second type is a plastic strip thermometer that a person can place on the forehead. These strips can detect a fever, but they do not give an exact reading. They only show if a person’s temperature is high or low.

Rectal thermometer

A rectal thermometer takes the temperature of the rectum. Although it may not be the easiest or most comfortable option, it does provide highly accurate readings.

Rectal thermometers give more accurate readings than ear or oral thermometers.

Rectal thermometers may be the best option when caring for infants. Getting an accurate reading is vital when a baby may have a fever or need medical attention.

To use a rectal thermometer, apply a lubricant to the tip and gently insert it about half an inch (1.3 centimeters) into the rectum if the child is under 6 months old, or no more than an inch if the individual is older.

A person should not use a rectal thermometer in the mouth. It is important to disinfect the thermometer after each use.

Many people can recognize when they feel feverish. Some describe it as a feeling of warmth.

There is no completely accurate way to diagnose a fever without using a thermometer. However, certain symptoms can give a person a good idea of whether or not they have a fever.

Touching the forehead

Touching a person’s forehead with the back of the hand is a common method of telling whether or not they have a fever. If the person has a fever, their forehead may feel very hot.

This can be inaccurate, but it may provide some general information.

However, a person with a suspected fever who touches their own forehead may not feel anything unusual. For this reason, it is important to ask someone else for help.

A person may also be able to check for fever by resting their cheek against the person’s forehead. However, this may not be advisable if they suspect COVID-19. A person should always wash their cheek after resting it against someone else’s forehead.

Looking for flushing in the cheeks

Checking in a mirror for any signs of flushed cheeks can help a person tell whether or not they have a fever.

If they do, the cheeks may be reddish, or they may simply have more color than usual.

Pinching the hand

Dehydration can be one sign of a fever. To check for dehydration, a person can gently pinch the skin on the back of their hand, then let the skin go and watch it carefully.

If they are well hydrated, their skin will fall back into place very quickly. If the skin moves slowly, the person may be dehydrated.

However, this method can also be inaccurate, as dehydration does not always indicate a fever.

Checking urine color

Urine color may also help indicate whether or not someone has a fever.

Fevers dehydrate the body, which can prevent it from making as much urine as usual. This leads to more concentrated urine, which may be dark yellow or orange and possibly have an odor.

Looking for other symptoms

Some other signs and symptoms of a fever can include:

It is important to catch fevers in infants and children early before their temperatures become very high.

Beyond feeling very hot, an infant or young child with a fever may:

  • have skin that is red or flushed
  • be irritable
  • be unusually tired
  • have difficulty drinking or feeding

A fever in a child is any temperature over 100.4°F (38°C). Older children may show many of the same symptoms as adults.

Learn more about recognizing a fever in every age group.

A fever may not require medical treatment. It will usually go down on its own in time.

However, adults with persistent high fevers — above 104°F (40°C) — should seek medical help.

Children may need to see a doctor sooner than this. Infants younger than 2 months old should receive medical attention if they have a fever of over 100.4° F (38°C).

Also, anyone who has had a fever for more than a few days should contact a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.


Some early symptoms of COVID-19 may include:

  • a fever
  • a dry cough
  • a low appetite
  • shortness of breath

If a person has any of these symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that they stay at home and, as much as possible, avoid physical proximity to other people.

They should also wear a mask or other face covering if other people are near.

They or someone nearby should call the emergency services and let the operator know that they may have COVID-19 if they experience the following symptoms:

  • difficulty breathing
  • severe chest pain
  • a bluish tint to the skin or lips, due to a lack of oxygen
  • confusion or changes in consciousness

How do you know if a fever is starting?

A person may feel hot if they have a fever. They may also begin to develop other symptoms, such as a headache, sore muscles, tiredness, and sweating. Children may also appear irritable or have difficulty drinking.

Do you feel hot or cold when you have a fever?

A fever may make a person feel hot. However, it can also cause a person to feel cold or shivery.

A thermometer is the most accurate tool for diagnosing a fever. Types include oral, ear, rectal, and forehead thermometers.

Other techniques can also help indicate whether a person has a fever. These include checking the forehead with the back of the hand, monitoring urine color, and checking for signs of dehydration.

A fever usually resolves on its own. However, a person should contact a doctor if a fever is very high or does not go down within a few days. It is best to seek medical advice if an infant has a fever.