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PSA: You can’t tell if you have a fever by touching your own face

You wake up covered in sweat but you’re shivering. One minute you’re steaming, the next freezing. That’s it, I’ve got a fever, you think – and up your hand goes to your forehead to check.

Oh, maybe not…it feels fine, you say as you wipe the beads of sweat off onto your sopping pyjamas.

Well, we’re sorry to break it to you, but you may not be fine just because you don’t feel as hot as you think.

The only way to know for sure if you have a fever – that’s a temperature of 37.2’c or above – is by using a thermometer. You may have grown up with your mum whipping her hand across your forehead to check whether you were really as ill as you were making out but in reality, the old hand method isn’t massively accurate.

In fact, according to a study in the journal Tropical Medicine and International Health, patients who self-reported feeling feverish at a rural teaching hospital in India only had a 58% chance of actually having a fever.

It’s really important that you have the equipment handy to test for a high temperature because having a fever is one of the key symptoms of coronavirus.

But what if you’ve only got an old thermometer? Apparently, it doesn’t matter how ancient your thermometer is so long as it’s intact and not damaged or out of juice. If you’ve only got one that goes under the tongue, be sure to thoroughly clean it with soap and water before using.

If you don’t have a thermometer at home but you do suspect a fever, do not go out to buy one. It’s definitely better that you stay at home just in case you do have coronavirus.

Fevers do tend to come with a few tell-tale signs and under the current circumstances, it’s better if you take the cautious approach and stay in bed or self-isolate in your room or home if you do think you’re coming down with something.

Other signs to watch out for:

  • shivering/chills
  • fatigue (unusual levels of tiredness)
  • headache
  • body aches (not from exercise or PMS)
  • sweats
  • facial flushes (looking ‘peaky’)
  • feeling breathless or weak

If there’s someone living with you who could feel your head with their hand, that’s also a good shout – just so long as they’re not vulnerable (they also need to give their hands a jolly good scrub before and after!).

Make sure that they use the back of their hand as our palms are less sensitive to temperature changes, meaning that they may not think you feel hotter than expected. If you have a fever, you’ll be hotter all over – not just in your face or forehead – so they may also want to give you a feel in other places such as your stomach, back and neck.

But ultimately, a thermometer is your best bet.

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  • Posted on April 25, 2020