The Basics of Fever

The Basics of Fever

Too many of us start losing our nerves when fever strikes. Well on the face of it, we might hit the panic button but technically and normally, fever is not dangerous. In fact, fevers are considered as the best possible signs of an underlying condition.

Highlights

  • Fever is simply referred as high body temperature than normal
  • Fever can be caused due to several reasons such as infection, cold or flu, vaccination, and inflammatory disease
  • Treatment is mostly home-based while over the counter pills are also used widely

What is a fever?

Fever is generally referred to as elevated body temperature which is higher than normal. Fever is not always a cause for concern; in fact, a short-term increase in body temperature actually heals the body or fight off illness. However, a severe increase in body temperature might require immediate medical attention, a condition known as hyperthermia.

Normal body temperature of a human being is around 98.6°F or 37°C. However, the temperature can go up and down depending on person to person and situation such as time of the day, intense exercise, menstrual cycle, exercise, etc.

  • Fever occurs in infant if their body temperature exceeds 100.4°F or 38°C
  • In children, the temperature should be within 99.5°F or 37.5°C
  • Fever in adult occurs when their body temperature goes above 99 to 99.5°F or 37.2 to 37.5°C

What causes fever?

Fever is associated with physical discomfort and most people feel better when they take treatment. Our body temperature is controlled by a part of our brain known as the hypothalamus. 

When infection or some illness attacks the body, the hypothalamus resets the body to a higher temperature.

The most common cause of fever is the infection such as common cold or flu, other may include:

  • Infection of ear, skin, throat, lung, bladder or kidney
  • Conditions that trigger inflammation such as arthritis
  • Side effects of medicine
  • Vaccination
  • Cancer
  • Teething (in infants)
  • Blood clotting
  • Inflammatory bowel disease or food poisoning

What are the symptoms of fever?

Depending on the cause of fever, one can experience following symptoms:

  • Feeling drowsiness
  • Headache or an earache
  • Sore throat
  • Stiffness in neck
  • Sweating
  • Muscles ache
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shivering
  • General weakness

Treatment of fever

Treatment too varies depending on the cause.

Treating fever at home

A low-intensity fever typically does not require medical treatment.

  • Taking plenty of rest and drinking fluids is enough to dismiss fever
  • In case of mild symptoms, one can take over the counter pills such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Taking bath in lukewarm water and resting in comfortable room temperature can also relieve you from symptoms
  • An ice pack or cold towel can be applied to the head for comfort

When to see a doctor

In many cases, the signs and symptoms that indicate a serious medical condition can require medical intervention. You must visit a doctor if:

  • Your child is younger than 3 months and having body temperature that goes over 100.4°F or 38°C
  • Your child is 3-6 months old and temperature is around 102°F, or 38.9°C with symptoms such as unusual irritation, weakness and lack of activity
  • Your child is 6-24 months old and body temperature is higher than 102°F, or 38.9°C, lasting more than a day
  • Your child makes poor eye contact with you
  • Your child seems to be restless and irritable
  • If you or your child have a fever that lasts more than 3 days
  • If your body temperature exceeds 103°F or 39.4°C

When does fever demands emergency medical assistance?

  • When you feel confused
  • Incapable of walking
  • Trouble breathing
  • Hallucination
  • Chest pain
  • Inconsolable crying in children

Fever is not a serious disease in a majority of the cases, but we must see a doctor if something feels abnormal.

Sources

1. Patient education: Fever in children (Beyond the Basics)(n.d.). UpToDate read more
2. Fevers(2017,September). KidsHealth read more
3. Mayo Clinic Staff(2017, September 22)Fever: First aid
read more