A fever is a body temperature that is higher than normal (98.6ºF). It is part of our body’s defense against infection, as it activates the body’s immune system. Besides heat stroke and infection, cancer and collagen vascular diseases or noninfectious inflammatory diseases can also cause an increase in the body temperature.1 A rectal temperature higher than 100.4º F always confirms the presence of fever.
In general, body temperature is usually lowest in the early morning and highest in the evening. It can be raised by physical activity, emotional stress, heavy clothing, medications and high room temperature. This is particularly true in children. Some infants and children develop fevers after receiving routine immunizations such as the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DPT) or pneumococcal vaccines. Most fevers usually subside within a few days and not all fevers need treatment with medications. Unexplained fever which is persistent for 3 weeks or more is called fever of unknown origin (FUO).1
Fever can be continuous as seen in pneumonia and urinary tract infection, intermittent as in malaria and septicemia or remittent as seen in infective endocarditis. As fever can occur with many different conditions, coexisting signs and symptoms can help in identifying the cause of the fever. Fever which is very high may lead to febrile convulsions (in children younger than six years),2 hallucinations, confusion and irritability.
The first aid for fever consists of the following:
1.Mansueto P, Di Lorenzo G, Rizzo M, Di Rosa S, Vitale G, Rini G, et al. Fever of unknown origin in a Mediterranean survey from a division of internal medicine: report of 91 cases during a 12-year-period (1991-2002). Intern Emerg Med. 2008 Feb 9; (Epub ahead of print).
2.Jones T, Jacobsen SJ. Childhood febrile seizures: Overview and implications. Int J Med Sci. 2007; 4(2): 110–114.
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