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Fever is not a disease or an infection. It is actually a symptom of any medical health condition that tells us that the body’s immune system is trying to fight off or coping to overcome.

What is Fever?

The body has a normal temperature that allows optimum functioning of every organ and cell within the body. The temperature is regulated by the hypothalamus, a part of the brain. This normal body temperature is 37˚C. However, the temperature keeps fluctuating during the day. This fluctuation is normal and influenced by various activities we carry out during the day. This includes sleeping, exercising and even after having our meals.

A fever is a medical sign that indicates there is something wrong in the body. When the body temperature is about 38˚C (100˚F) or higher is is called as pyrexia or fever. It is not a dangerous symptom, but may lead to complications if the temperature rises up to 39.4˚C.  Fever leads to a lot of physical discomfort.

However, fever is considered a good sign in most cases as it shows the body’s defense system is doing its job. This means the natural immune system is trying to fight off an infection as well as trying to set things right within the body.

Causes of Fever

Fever is a physiological response of an activated immune system that causes a rise in body temperature. Fever is generally caused by:

  • A viral infection
  • A bacterial invasion within the body
  • Parasitic intrusion
  • Inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sunburn or extreme exposure to sun
  • Heat stroke
  • Reaction to certain medications
  • Withdrawal symptom in alcoholics
  • Presence of tumor within the body
  • Ear infection
  • Sinus infection
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Appendicitis
  • Autoimmune disorders like systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Blood clots
  • A sign of teething in infants
  • Hemorrhage or hemolysis

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Signs and Symptoms of Fever

The first sign of fever obviously increases in body temperature that is observed after touching the body or the forehead of the affected person. Other symptoms include:

  • Feeling cold especially when others around the person do not feel cold
  • Shivers in body
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Sleepiness
  • Loss of concentration
  • Unconsciousness
  • Palpitations
  • Muscle pain
  • Flushed skin
  • Irritation
  • Hallucinations

Diagnosis of Fever

Fever is usually diagnosed with the help of physical examination and checking body temperature with a thermometer. Certain blood tests or procedures will be carried out to find out the reason behind the fever. This is especially true in case the fever persists for more than a week.

Treatment of Fever

Fever does not always call for specific treatment. Many times, it resolves on its own without treatment. A low-grade fever is usually a sign the body is trying to fight off an infection. In this case, the doctor may prescribe acetaminophen or ibuprofen as an antipyretic drug. However, make sure you speak to a doctor regarding the dosage of the drug, especially in case of children. Never give aspirin to children or adolescents under the age of 16 years. Give the patient plenty of fluids to drink as it it will keep them hydrated and flush out toxins from the body.

If the fever does not subside within a week or leads to vomiting, pain in the abdomen, severe headache, pain during urination, etc. visit a doctor immediately. Fever is very dangerous if the temperature rises over 41.5 °C (106.7 °F). It is considered a medical emergency and indicates a serious health complication.

Fever should not be feared. It is a welcome sign that the body is taking a natural stance towards any infection affecting it. If one has any doubt regarding fever, they should speak to their general practitioner for details.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 4, 2015

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