Fever – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Having a fever or increased body temperature is a sign of underlying illness in the body. Fever is a symptom telling you that something is not right in your body. Fever is not a matter of concern until the temperature is above 102 F for adults. Slight increase in temperature for infants and toddlers should be checked promptly. Generally fever would go away with OTC medications but it is good even if you are simply leaving it untreated. Fever can cause pain and discomfort and tiredness in the body. It is enough it you take rest for a couple of days. Your immune system would swing into action to detect the cause of fever and fight with infectious organisms and destroy them.

Taking A Temperature :

You cannot always rely on the skin temperature by touching the forehead or neck. Some people complain of “being feverish” although their temperature is normal. Measurement can be taken on different parts of the body including axillary (under the armpits), oral (inside your mouth) and rectal (inside the rectum). There would be variations in measurement according to the region in which it is taken. And the body temperature may vary up to 0.6 degree Celsius in adults in the course of the day. Often the temperature would be low in the morning and high in the afternoon.

Fever Symptoms :

Any variation from the normal body temperature (98.6 F) is considered to be fever. In addition to increase in body temperature fever can cause symptoms like headache, discomfort, shivering, sweating, loss of appetite and fatigue. Many adults feel tired and painful when having a fever. Fever can cause muscle aches and dehydration depending on the cause. Body temperature of 103 F and above can cause serious complications like hallucination, confusion, seizure and dehydration. You need to call the doctor if the body temperature goes above 100.4 F in infants and toddlers. Temperature may vary slightly for newborns and it may go below 98.6 F.


Symptoms For Infants And Toddlers :

The baby may look irritable and may not have eye contact with you. He/she may refuse to feed or cry consistently. Some infants vomit after every feeding when having a fever. As long as your baby is making eye contact and feeding/playing you need not have to panic even if he has a body temperature.

When To Seek Immediate Medical Help?

Adults having fever for more than 3 days and having signs of severe headache, muscle pain, throat swelling, skin rash, and stiffness in the neck, difficulty in breathing, abdominal pain, restlessness and mental confusion should get immediate medical attention.

Causes Of Fever :

There are many factors including an infection that causes a fever. Normal body temperature is anywhere from 97.7 to 99.5 F. Hypothalamus in your brain is the point that serves as thermostat. It would shift the set point forward if something goes wrong in the body triggering a fever. Plenty of changes occur in your body and immune system gets induced to fight off the assailant that is causing a fever. You may start shivering due to quick contraction of muscles producing heat. You may feel cold and start covering with heavy blanket and clothing to retain warmth.

The body takes several measures to conserve heat and in turn generate more of heat which is felt as increased temperature in the torso and head. All this process happens in quick succession and would continue until the body temperature meets the target of set point fixed by the hypothalamus. Even changes in hormones and sudden emotions or stress can cause increase in body temperature. Infections (by virus or bacteria) and extreme sunburn can cause a fever. Menstrual cycle can slightly elevate your body temperature and sometimes hard exercises can affect the temperature. Heat exhaustion and certain inflammatory disorders like arthritis and intake of some drugs can trigger a fever. Vaccination like tetanus or diphtheria or other vaccines can increase the body temperature. In rare cases fever can be caused without any apparent reason.

What Happens If Fever Is Not Treated ?

Fever can cause complications like severe dehydration in the body. Sometimes it can induce seizure (febrile seizure) causing loss of consciousness. The person should be taken to the hospital without any delay in such cases.

Diagnosis :

If the fever is not subsiding after taking OTC medications your doctor may request for testing procedure to find out the cause. It includes chest X-ray, blood test, urine analysis and other tests.


Fever Treatment :

  • OTC medications – If you have a low grade fever you can wait for few hours or even a day before taking any drugs. For moderate to high fever you can try Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen for getting quick relief. Do not exceed the prescribed dosage since it can affect your liver or kidney. In case fever does not reduce you need to check with your doctor without any delay. Adults can take aspirin for managing body pain but it is not recommended for children.
  • Identify And Treat – Your doctor may identify the underlying problem before treating the fever. In case of an infection he would suggest antibiotic based on other symptoms like throat pain or severe cough. Antiviral medications are given for viral infections. A person is said to have high grade fever if the body temperature is above 103 F. It would be treated as medical emergency if the fever fails to respond to any drugs. Remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Take complete rest for the entire day even if you have low grade fever.
  • Infants – Infants and newborns having fever for more than 6 hours would be given extra care by admitting in a hospital. Based on other symptoms the baby would be given intravenous medications to reduce the fever and fight off infection.

Ways To Prevent Fever :

  • You cannot totally prevent getting a fever but you can reduce the exposure of infection by following these simple steps.
  • Wash your hands properly before eating food and after using toilet.
  • You can teach your children the right method of washing hands.
  • Do not touch your nose or eyes with your fingers since you may inadvertently transmit the parasites to your body.

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