Fever: Temperature Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

fever feature image

All of us have had a fever once in our life.

A fever is basically an increase in body temperature.

It is also called hyperthermia, high temperature and pyrexia.

This article discusses the causes, symptoms and treatment of fever in great detail.

Keep reading to find out how you can cure your fever.

what is fever

What is Fever?

Normal body temperature is usually around 37 degrees Celcius.

If that exceeds 38 degrees, it is said to be a high temperature or fever.

Fever usually occurs due to another illness and is temporary.

Mild fever is usually not a big worry for adults, however, fever over 39.4 degrees Celcius can get concerning.

However, a high temperature in children is considered to be 38 degrees Celcius.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention considers 100.4° F 38 °C high fever while 98.6° F 37° C is normal.

Hence if you have a temperature of 100.4 then it is troubling and anything above 102 °F 38.9°C is severe and you will need medical advice.

A fever cures by using over-the-counter medicines however, it still goes away in a matter of days.

Fever is usually the body’s response to fighting an illness or infection. So, at times it is better to be left untreated, to let the immune system and body fight against the infection.

The hypothalamus in the brain resets your body’s temperature to a higher degree when infection or illness occurs.

The hypothalamus controls the body temperature therefore, a fever usually indicates the presence of an infection, illness or something else in your body.

fever symptoms

Fever Symptoms

Your normal body temperature may be higher or lower than the average normal body temperature of 37 degrees Celcius.

The normal body temperature also differs at different times of the day.

It is lower early morning and higher by the afternoon till evening.

Therefore a certain temperature reading cannot define if you have a fever or not.

The signs and symptoms of fever include sweating, headache, tiredness, lack of appetite and chills.

If you have a high temperature, you may also shiver, have muscle and body aches, suffer from dehydration and go through irritability.

However, young children aged 6 months to 5 years may also get febrile seizures.

One-third of children who get febrile seizures may get another one in the next 2 months.

Children also feel hotter than usual. They will have sweaty palms and forehead.

They may even get red especially around the cheeks.

Checking For Fever

You can check for fever by checking your body temperature.

There are different types of thermometers.

Oral, ear thermometer, rectal and forehead thermometer.

The most accurate thermometers are oral and rectal.

Rectal thermometers give the most accurate measurement for children more so infants.

Forehead and ear thermometers are not considered as accurate.

High temperature may not be a big concern.

However, in some situations, you should get yourself and your child checked by a doctor. 

These situations vary for infants, older children and adults.

infant

For Infants

The normal body temperature for infants is around 36 degrees Celcius.

Hence, if your child is younger than 3 months and their rectal temperature is about 39 degrees Celcius, take them to a doctor.

If your child, aged 3 to 6 months,  has a 38.9 degrees Celcius temperature, get them checked.

They will also show signs of lethargy and irritability.

Moreover, if your child is 6 to 12 months old and their temperature is 38.9 degrees Celcius but lasts longer than a day, then you should worry.

If they show additional symptoms like cold and cough, you should show up at the doctor’s clinic.

Unexplained fever is not as serious in adults and children as it is for infants.

Therefore, do not ignore the signs and visit your doctor timely.

sick child

For children

Fever is not that serious for children if they are responsive.

They may get weak but as long as they are responding to you, making eye contact and drinking fluids, they will be fine.

However, they may not be fine, if they vomit, have a headache, stomach ache and are irritable.

Seek immediate medical care if they have a fever after left in a hot car.

Go see your doctor if their fever lasts more than three days and they do not respond to you with eye contact.

sick adult

For adults

You should call your doctor if your temperature exceeds 39.4 degrees Celcius (103 degrees Fahrenheit).

You should get immediate medical attention if you have a

  • severe headache,
  • sensitivity to  light
  • a rash on your skin
  • regular vomiting and nausea
  • disorientation
  • abdominal pain
  • pain while urinating
  • seizures
  • stiff neck and back pain

In adults, fever may be a symptom of some other serious condition such as malariameningitis or typhoid.

These diseases need to be treated promptly.

Therefore, if you have an unexplained fever alongside other relevant symptoms then get checked as soon as possible.

Otherwise, these conditions could worsen and lead to complications.

fever causes

Causes of Fever

The hypothalamus regulates your body temperature.

It is also called a thermostat because the hypothalamus sets the normal point of temperature higher.

This eventually results in chills, you are tempted to cover your body with blankets and clothing and you start shivering to generate more body heat.

This raises your body temperature and causes fever.

Normal body temperature is between 36.1 degrees Celcius and 37.2 degrees Celcius for adults.

However, a fever usually results from something going on in the body.

This could be:

  • a bacterial infection
  • a cold
  • inflammation of joints or diseases that cause inflammation like rheumatoid arthritis
  • drugs for treating high blood pressure and seizures
  • a tumor that is malignant, i.e. cancer
  • a viral infection
  • immunizations and vaccines
  • heat exhaustion
  • hormone disorders
  • teething in babies

Fever is a symptom of many diseases and infections.

Therefore, it is hard to find the exact cause and origin of the fever.

Anyone can get a fever, in fact, most of us have had a fever more than once in our lives.

woman with headache

Complications of Fever

A fever higher than 103 degrees Fahrenheit is severe and can become dangerous.

It may also indicate an underlying condition that is not treated yet and is increasing.

Children under 5 may experience convulsions.

These are febrile seizures and your child may lose consciousness and their limbs will shake.

This may look concerning but they do not have any lasting effect.

If your child has a seizure lay your child on their stomach on the floor.

Remove any sharp object near them, loosen up their clothes, hold them and do not put anything in their mouth.

Seizures stop on their own hence, you should not try to stop them.

Visit a doctor as soon as seizures start to determine the underlying cause of the fever and treat it properly.

fever treatment

Fever Treatment

Your doctor will take a physical exam, ask about your symptoms and may take a chest X-ray.

A mild fever does not necessarily need treatment.

It can be beneficial in killing any harmful microbes that cause illness.

However, you may still be given over-the-counter medicines.

Medication

If your fever causes discomfort, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen and Tylenol.

However, be wary of overdosing.

Overdoing can be fatal and long-term use of these medicines can cause liver and kidney issues.

Do not give your child another dose if their fever does not go down.

Moreover, children should not get aspirin. It can cause a fatal disease, Reye’s syndrome.

Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic if the underlying cause of the fever is a bacterial infection.

In the case of a viral infection, you will be advised rest and consumption of fluids.

Moreover, if babies younger than 28 days get a fever, they need to be hospitalized.

High temperature could indicate a serious bacterial infection that needs regular monitoring.

home remedies

Home Remedies

Fever can go away on its own as well.

You will have to take proper rest because you are weak and activity can actually raise your body temperature.

Take plenty of fluids. You or your child might feel dehydrated.

Therefore, take lots of fluids and give an oral rehydration solution to your child.

Wear light clothes to keep yourself cool.

Do not cover yourself in blankets and do not warm up your room rather keep it cool.

Moreover, take a lukewarm water bath not an extremely hot or cold shower.

child with fever

Do’s and Don’ts of looking after a child’s fever

You can take care of your child’s fever yourself.

It may only last up to 3 to 4 days.

However, you may make mistakes like some parents.

Do’s

You should feed your child well. Give them fluids and oral rehydration solutions to prevent dehydration.

You can give them paracetamol if the temperature causes high discomfort.

Moreover, you should keep them at home so that they can get plenty of rest.

Don’ts

Do not undress them to cool them down.

Furthermore, Do not sponge them down with a wet cloth to lower the temperature because a high temperature is the body’s response to fighting an infection. Hence, it is rather good.

Moreover, there is no need to cover them in blankets and layers of clothes when they have chills.

You should not give paracetamol to a baby of and under 2 months. A baby younger than 3 months or weighing less than 5kg should not get ibuprofen.

You should not give both ibuprofen and paracetamol unless the doctor says so.

Children with asthma should not get ibuprofen.

And your children should not take aspirin because it could cause Reye’s syndrome.

prevention

Prevention

You can protect yourself from getting fever by avoiding getting infections.

Therefore, wash your hands regularly, especially after using the toilet, around a sick person and in a crowd.

Wash them with soap but if that is not available, carry a hand sanitizer.

Moreover, teach your children the importance of washing hands. Show them how to wash hands thoroughly for 20 to 30 seconds.

Do not share utensils and cups with your children because it could spread other contagious diseases that cause fever.

Furthermore, cover your mouth while sneezing and coughing and keep a distance from someone who coughs or sneezes.

Lastly, teach your children to avoid touching their mouth, eyes and nose because these are the main pathways for viruses and bacteria and they can transfer from their hand to their body.

 

Conclusion

It is hard to prevent fever because fever is our body’s natural response.

However, we can prevent what causes fever.

In the time of Covid-19, be extra careful of infections and wear your mask outdoors.

Keep washing your hands and maintain a safe distance.

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