Fever is also known as elevated temperature, hyperthermia, or pyrexia. It refers to a body temperature that is higher than normal. Fevers in children and adults are common. A short-term upsurge in body temperature can help the body fight off illness. However, a serious fever can be a symptom of a severe condition that requires immediate medical attention.
There are various conditions that trigger fevers. Some possible causes are blood clots, food poisoning, extreme sunburn, infections (e.g., the flu, common cold, and pneumonia), teething (in infants), some immunizations (e.g., diphtheria or tetanus in children), some medications (antibiotics), and some inflammatory diseases (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease).
Signs and Symptoms
A symptom is something the patient feels while a sign is something other people see. Signs and symptoms of fever are associated with what is known as sickness behavior, including a headache, a loss of appetite, muscle aches, general weakness, dehydration, depression, hyperalgesia, lethargy, sleepiness, sweating, shivering, and feeling cold when nobody else does. If the fever is high, there may be extreme irritability, confusion, convulsions, and delirium.
It is straightforward to diagnose a fever. The patient’s temperature is taken; if the number is high, he or she has a fever. It is advisable to take the temperature when they are at rest since physical activities can warm them up. A person has a fever if:
- The temperature in the mouth is higher than 99.9°F (37.7°C)
- The temperature in the rectum is over 100-101°F (37.5-38.3°C)
- The temperature under the armpit or inside the ear is over 99°F (37.2°C)
When the doctor has confirmed an elevated body temperature, some diagnostic tests may be conducted, depending on what other signs and symptoms are present. These tests may include blood tests, urine tests, x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and other imaging scans.
Over the counter drugs such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) can help reduce fever. If the fever is caused by a bacterial infection, the doctor will recommend an antibiotic. Antibiotics have no influence against viruses, but may sometimes be advised to prevent secondary infections.
If the cause of a fever is cold, which is triggered by a viral infection, you can use NSAIDs to relieve uncomfortable symptoms. NSAIDs will not be effective if the fever is caused by hot weather or prolonged strenuous exercise. The patient needs cooling. If they are confused or unconscious, take them to the hospital straight away. Patients with a fever should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Children and adolescents should not take aspirin since it may trigger a condition called Reye’s syndrome.
Dress lightly. Most body heat dissolves through the skin, so overdressing only leads to a higher fever and can make you more uncomfortable. If you have chills or shivers, use a light blanket. Keep the room temperature at a comfortable level for you.
Sponging is not necessary to lower body temperature. In contrast, it may make you more uncomfortable. Sponging just cools the outside of your body and causes you to shiver, without affecting the internal body temperature. You should use sponging only in an emergency such as heat stroke.
3. Extra fluids
Fever will make your body lose fluid, so you should drink extra fluids. Cool water or drinks might be helpful, but it does not matter whether the drinks are warm or cool.
Medicine can reduce the fever by 2°F-3°F (1°C-2°C), but cannot bring the temperature down to normal. Two types of medicines that are usually recommended for managing fever are acetaminophen (Abenol, Tempra, Tylenol, drug store and other brands) and ibuprofen (Advil, Brufen, Motrin, drug store and other brands). They are available in capsules, tablets, and liquid formulations of plentiful strengths. Acetaminophen is also a rectal suppository. Do not put a tablet designed for the mouth into your rectum.
Your doctor can help to decide on an adequate formulation and strength for you. The correct dose for a person is based on his body weight. An estimated dose is often provided on the medicine package. These drugs can manage the fever and make you more comfortable, but they do not solve the underlying cause of the fever.
If a baby is less than three months old and has a fever, parents need to see a doctor right away. Fever in an infant may be a sign of a severe infection. Even though this happens on the weekend, do not wait to go to the nearest Emergency Department to have the baby assessed by a doctor. Do not give any medicines to the baby without a doctor’s recommendation.
Acetaminophen and ibuprofen do not react to each other. They may be evenly effective in reducing a temperature. If the baby is already taking other medicines or has a pre-existing medical condition, ask a doctor to make sure that acetaminophen or ibuprofen is safe for the child.
Do not use ASA (Acetylsalicylic Acid or Aspirin) to treat a baby’s fever unless the doctor has specifically told you to give it. Although rare, ASA has been associated with a severe condition known as Reye’s syndrome. Check the label of other medicines or consult with a pharmacist to make sure they do not contain ASA.
Fever: Myths and Facts
Myth: Fevers cause brain damage.
Fact: It is not true! Most fevers with infections are less than 108°F (42°C); they do not cause brain damage. Only a sustained body temperature greater than 110°F (44°C) can trigger brain damage.
Myth: Fevers are bad for children.
Fact: It is untrue! Fever is just a sign indicating that the body’s defense system has started to work. Fevers help to fight infections since many germs do not survive as well at higher body temperatures do. Even though the child may be uncomfortable, most fevers have a useful effect and may help the body to fight off infection. The main reason to take medicine to decrease fever in children is to help them feel better.
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