Skip to content

For Adult Patients: What to do when you have a high temperature or feel unusually cold (video)

What to do when you have a high temperature or feel unusually cold – for adults.

Introduction
Questions
Additional Information
References

This video has been created by Paramedics in response to the number of patients we are coming across who are unsure what to do when they have a high temperature or don’t know that the signs and symptoms they are experiencing may mean that they have a high temperature.

If this sounds like you, don’t worry, you’re not alone:

42% of working-age adults are unable to understand and make use of everyday health information, rising to 61% when numeracy skills are also required for comprehension

Public Health England (2015)

As Paramedics, we are frequently advising patients to take paracetamol if they are in pain – unless they have been specifically told not to. We are also advising patients to take off excess layers when they have high temperatures, even if they feel cold. I hope the video is helpful and informative. If there are any concerns, please let me know in the comment box below.


Questions

How do I know I can trust this information?

  • Made by an HCPC Registered (and practicing) Paramedic
  • Peer reviewed by other HCPC Registered Paramedics
  • Informed by research & real-life experience
  • Referenced

Are you a company? Who funds you?

Nope, just a website run by a Paramedic, without funding or sponsorship. If this changes, I’ll update this answer.

Can I share the video?

Yes, please do – but any shares must be accompanied by this link:

What to do when you have a high temperature or feel unusually cold – for adults. by Louise Sopher is licensed under Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

This license requires that reusers give credit to the creator. It allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, even for commercial purposes.


I am a patient/member of the public. Can I contact you for medical advice?

Sadly, due to a whole combination of grey area legalities, I’m unable to offer direct medical advice, and these requests will not be responded to.

I am an HCP and I have a question or suggestion.

No worries, go ahead and contact me.

Is there anything else I should be aware of?

Yes. Please read our disclaimer and the accompanying information below.


Additional Information

When do I need to call 999 or attend A&E for a high temperature alone?

  • If you have signs of SEPSIS.
  • If you have signs of MENINGITIS.
  • If you are a chemotherapy patient and you have had recent chemotherapy.
  • If you have new signs of other conditions, such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, or sudden weaknesses (signs of strokes).
  • If you do not have any of the above but you think you need to seek help. Your options are: 111, 999, self-transport to A&E, GPs, or urgent care centres.

How do I take my temperature?

The NHS has some useful information about this here.

Do I need to have an ear thermometer?

This is a question of much debate. In the link above, the NHS advises not using forehead strip thermometers due to lack of accuracy. Patient.info advises a blanket avoidance of forehead thermometers. Elsewhere on NHS sites, you’re advised that you don’t need a thermometer to work out if you have a temperature – you’ll likely feel hot to touch.

Is a temperature 37.8 or 38?

This is also a subject of much debate. In the NHS, here says 38C. As does here – in adults. NHS Scotland says 37.8. I have chosen the lower threshold.


References

Derry, C.J. et al, 2014. Caffeine as an analgesic adjuvant for acute pain in adults. [online] Available at: https://www.cochrane.org/CD009281/SYMPT_caffeine-analgesic-adjuvant-acute-pain-adults (Accessed 21/01/21)

EMC, 2017. Paracetamol & Caffeine 500/65 mg Effervescent Tablets. [online] Available at: https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/7416/smpc#gref (Accessed 21/01/21)

Jensen, M.M. & Brabrand, M. 2015. ‘The relationship between body temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate in acute patients at admission to a medical care unit’ in Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine, 23: A12.

Knott, L. 2018. Fever. [online] Available at: https://patient.info/signs-symptoms/fever (Accessed 25/01/21)

NHS, 2021. When to self-isolate and what to do. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-and-treatment/when-to-self-isolate-and-what-to-do/ (Accessed 25/01/21)

NHSb, 2020. High temperature (fever) in adults. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fever-in-adults/#:~:text=A%20high%20temperature%20is%20usually,your%20body%20fighting%20an%20infection.

NHS Inform, 2020. Fever in adults. [online] Available at: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/fever-in-adults (Accessed 25/01/21)

NPS MedicineWise, 2010. Paracetamol with caffeine (Panadol Extra) available over the counter from pharmacies. [online] Available at: https://www.nps.org.au/radar/articles/paracetamol-with-caffeine-panadol-extra-available-over-the-counter-from-pharmacies (Accessed 21/01/21)

Public Health England, 2015. Local action on health inequalities: Improving health literacy to reduce health inequalities [online] Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/460710/4b_Health_Literacy-Briefing.pdf (Accessed 25/01/21).

Sorensen, K. et al, 2015. Health Literacy in Europe: Comparative results of the European Health Literacy Survey (HLS-EU), The European Journal of Public Health, 25: 6.


By Louise Sopher, HCPC registered Paramedic.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: