Fever is one of the body’s natural responses to inflammation and infection. There are other factors, however, that can trigger fever. These include drugs, abnormalities in the nervous system, and exposure to heat and even hormones secreted by the endocrine system.
Fever usually comes with other accompanying symptoms which help in the diagnosis of its cause. These symptoms are usually specific and helpful for the doctor to formulate the right treatment program and prescription.
Technically, fever is an elevation of body temperature above the normal range of 36.5 to 37.5°C. However, body temperature can vary among individuals. It can also vary depending on the type of weather and even at the time of the day.
Hypothalamus is the thermostat of the body, which is responsible for maintaining a constant body temperature. Fever develops when the immune system of our body is activated by pyrogens. Pyrogens are fever-producing substances that are classified as viruses, bacteria, fungi, toxins and sometimes drugs. Body temperature is commonly measured with a thermometer on different parts of the body. For adults, the most common site where temperature is measured is the mouth. The rectum, skin, ear and axilla are the other sites. Rectal readings are considered to be the most accurate. With advancement in technology, digital thermometers are now used. These minimized the contamination of mercury due to breakage of conventional mercury glass thermometers.
Fever due to viruses is common. Initial symptoms include sore throat, runny nose and muscle aches. Viruses can also cause diarrhea and vomiting. Since viruses are self-limiting, antibiotics would not help. However, OTC (over-the-counter) medicines such as decongestants and pain relievers can treat the symptoms. Fevers due to viruses can last up to two weeks.
Fever due to bacteria can involve any body system. Unlike viruses, bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotics.
Fever due to fungal infections is also common. Fungal infections are often diagnosed on physical examination, although further confirmatory tests are sometimes required.
Insect bites can also be causes of fever. Malaria which is usually accompanied by on-and-off fever is a serious medical condition due to mosquito bites. A bite of a tick can lead to Lyme Disease. Whenever an insect bite is suspected as a cause, history and physical examination of a doctor should always be considered.
There are certain medical conditions that can impair the body’s immune system. A person with weakened immune system will be very susceptible to a wide range of infections. Pyrogens can easily invade the body, readily causing fever. It would be really difficult to trace the cause of the fever as there are lots of possibilities. A doctor needs to rule out all possible causes. Malnutrition, diabetes, cancer, HIV, organ transplant, prolonged steroid therapy, and old age are some of these conditions to rule out.
Ibuprofen and acetaminophen can reduce fever. However, there can be side effects. Nausea and vomiting are common, if these drugs are taken with empty stomach. Therefore, it is advisable to take these drugs after meals. One common complication of fever is dehydration. It is very important to drink water regularly.
With all these facts in mind, it would be wise to know when to seek medical advice. Fever due to viral infection usually goes away without any intervention. However, if fever persists and you notice unusual signs and symptoms, visit a doctor. A very high fever of 39.4° or greater lasting for several days can signal a serious condition. If fever is accompanied by confusion, stiff neck, severe headache, chest pain, difficulty in breathing and painful urination, it would be best to consult a doctor immediately.
Fever can be a simple symptom but it can also be a complex medical condition. It can present itself as an ordinary ailment but it is always advisable to know its cause as it can sometimes be a sign of a serious underlying disease. Hopefully, these facts will guide you when you have fever. Stay cool.