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Fever in Adults (cont.)

Exams and Tests

A doctor will ask many questions in an effort to find the source of the fever:

  • When the fever started
  • What other symptoms occurred
  • The person's immunization status
  • Any recent travel
  • Any exposures to sick people at work or at home
  • Any medications taken or illicit drug use
  • Exposure to animals
  • Sexual history
  • Recent surgeries
  • Any underlying medical illnesses
  • Allergies

A very thorough physical examination will be done in an effort to find the source of the fever. After the history is taken and physical examination is performed, the physician may know the cause of the fever. If the physician is not sure at this point, he or she may order certain tests to help make the diagnosis. Examples of diagnostic tests that may be ordered are

  • a blood test to measure the infection count (white blood cells),
  • strep throat culture,
  • sputum sample,
  • blood culture,
  • urine analysis,
  • urine culture,
  • stool sample,
  • spinal tap (lumbar puncture),
  • X-ray films or CT scan,
  • liver function tests,
  • thyroid function tests.

Based on the results of these tests, the physician usually will be able to find the cause of the fever. More specific tests including imaging tests may be done if needed if the initial tests do not suggest a cause for the fevers.

FUOs are challenging, and often specialists need to be involved to help determine what further diagnostic testing may be needed (for example, endoscopy, PET scanning, echocardiography, or radionucleotide studies).

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Fever of Unknown Origin »

Fever of unknown origin (FUO) was defined in 1961 by Petersdorf and Beeson as the following: (1) a temperature greater than 38.3°C (101°F) on several occasions, (2) more than 3 weeks' duration of illness, and (3) failure to reach a diagnosis despite one week of inpatient investigation.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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