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Fever: a Friend or Foe

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Fever: a Friend or Foe

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Everyone experiences an increase in their body temperature once in a while, which we refer to as a fever. This article explains whether fever is good or bad.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Preetha. J

Published At March 16, 2018
Reviewed AtApril 13, 2024

What Is a Fever?

A fever is a higher-than-normal body temperature. It usually indicates that something is wrong and happening with the body. The hypothalamus is a region of the brain that regulates the body temperature. The hypothalamus may raise the body's temperature in reaction to an infection, illness, or other factors.

What Are the Types of Fever?

Fevers can stem from various causes, and medical professionals categorize fevers into five types based on their patterns.

  • Intermittent: This fever type involves a rise in temperature followed by a return to normal levels within the day, with fluctuations typically ranging from a slight increase to around 2 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Remittent: With a remittent fever, the temperature fluctuates but consistently remains above the normal range.
  • Continuous or Sustained: In this type, the temperature remains relatively stable throughout the day without significant fluctuations.
  • Hectic: Hectic fevers cause substantial temperature swings, often exceeding 2 degrees Fahrenheit, accompanied by symptoms like chills and sweats.
  • Relapsing: A relapsing fever is characterized by intermittent spikes in temperature after periods of normal temperature lasting several days or weeks.

What Are the Symptoms of Fever?

The symptoms include:

  • Flushed face.
  • Hot, dry skin.
  • Aching all over.
  • Low output of urine, or dark urine.
  • Not interested in eating.
  • Constipation or diarrhea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea.

How Is a Fever Diagnosed?

Doctors recommend purchasing a thermometer as determining the temperature with it is the best technique to diagnose a fever. The following are some of the several types of thermometers:

Thermometer with digital display (oral, rectal, or under the armpit).

Thermometer for the tympanic membrane (ear) [not recommended in babies younger than six months].

The temporal artery (temperature taken across the forehead area).

In children under the age of three, taking a temperature rectally is the most accurate way. Take the temperature under the armpit or in the mouth of older children and adults. Consult the doctor about the best method for taking the temperature.

If the person goes to the hospital with a high fever, the following tests will be done:

Initially, a physical examination will be performed by a healthcare practitioner. To determine the reason for the fever, a thorough examination of the skin, eyes, ears, nose, throat, neck, chest, and abdomen may be performed. The duration and source of the fever, as well as accompanying symptoms, determine the course of treatment.

The following tests could be carried out:

  • A CBC (complete blood count) or a differential blood count are examples of blood testing.
  • Urinalysis.
  • An X-ray of the chest is taken.

What Are the Infections That Cause Fever?

The infections include:

Viral infections, such as colds or upper respiratory tract infections.

Tonsillitis, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections are bacterial infections.

Fevers that persist longer than two weeks are common in chronic conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis.

Malaria and typhoid fever are two tropical infections that can induce recurrent fevers.

One of the indications of heatstroke is a fever (without sweating).

Drugs, as some people are prone to fever as a side effect of some medications.

Due to cancerous tumors.

What Are the Self-Treatment Suggestions for Fever?

Suggestions to treat fever include:

  • To help lower the temperature, take Paracetamol or Ibuprofen in the recommended dosage.

  • Drink a lot of fluids, especially water.

  • Avoid alcoholic beverages, tea, and coffee, which might promote dehydration.

  • Using lukewarm water, sponge exposed skin. The person might try standing in front of a fan to increase the cooling effect of evaporation.

  • Cold baths or showers should be avoided. When the skin is cold, it constricts its blood vessels, trapping body heat. Shivering may occur due to the cold, which can generate additional heat.

  • Ensure that the person gets enough rest, especially bed rest.

What Are the Indicators That Prompt a Visit to a Healthcare Professional?

While fevers alone may not necessarily be alarming or warrant a doctor's call, there are specific situations where seeking medical advice is recommended for the infant, child, or parents.

For Infants and Toddlers: A fever is a significant concern in infants and toddlers. Contact the baby's healthcare provider if the child:

  • Is younger than 3 months old and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher.

  • Is between 3 and 6 months old and has a rectal temperature higher than 102 F (38.9 C) or exhibits unusual irritability, sluggishness, or discomfort even with a lower temperature.

  • Is between 7 and 24 months old and has a rectal temperature higher than 102 F (38.9 C) persisting for more than a day without other symptoms. However, if the child also displays additional signs like a cough, runny nose, or diarrhea, it is advisable to contact the healthcare provider sooner.

For Children: A fever accompanied by responsiveness, where the child makes eye contact, responds to facial expressions, and voice, drinks fluids, and engages in play, is typically not a cause for immediate concern.

However, contact the child's healthcare provider if the child:

  • Appears listless, confused, or has diminished eye contact.

  • Exhibits irritability, repeated vomiting, severe headache, sore throat, stomachache, or other symptoms causing significant discomfort.

  • Develop a fever after being left in a hot car; in such cases, seek medical care immediately.

  • Experiences a fever that persists for more than three days.

Adults: Contact the healthcare provider if the temperature reaches 103 F (39.4 C) or above. Seek urgent medical attention if any of the following signs or symptoms are present along with a fever:

  • Severe headache.

  • Rash.

  • Unusual sensitivity to bright light.

  • Stiff neck and pain when bending the head forward.

  • Mental confusion, unusual behavior, or changes in speech.

  • Persistent vomiting.

  • Difficulty breathing or chest pain.

  • Abdominal pain.

  • Painful urination.

  • Convulsions or seizures.

What Are the Complications of Fever?

While most fevers resolve without complications, some may lead to rare issues, particularly in young children. Children aged 6 months to 5 years are at risk of experiencing a febrile seizure due to a high fever, typically above 100.4 F. Indications that the child might be experiencing a febrile seizure include:

  • Loss of consciousness.

  • Shaking of arms and legs.

  • Stiffness or twitching on one side of the body.

Febrile seizures typically occur within the initial 24 hours of the fever and might serve as the first indication that the child is unwell.

Conclusion:

Our defensive mechanism, or immune system, causes an increase in body temperature to alert us that something is wrong with our bodies. It could be caused by an infection or something else entirely, but it is not a disease. It is not that antipyretics should never be used to treat a fever. If the temperature rises over the recommended levels, it may be necessary to take such medications under the supervision of a healthcare practitioner. It is critical to realize that taking medications without sufficient understanding and awareness causes more harm than good

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

Does Having a Fever Carry Any Advantages?

If the fever happens due to a minor viral infection, then temperatures ranging from 101 degrees Fahrenheit to 104 degrees Fahrenheit are nothing to worry about, and it carries some advantages:
- As the body temperature rises, the microorganisms in the body die.
- Viral replication of infected cells is prevented.
- High temperature causes a reduction of minerals in the bloodstream leading to bacterial death due to starvation.
- White blood cell formation and motility increase with temperature leading to increased immune response. 

2.

Why Is Fever Considered a Friend?

Mild fevers are good signs of the immune system working perfectly. When the body temperature is high, it triggers cellular mechanisms to make sure the immune system takes appropriate action against the offending bacteria or virus.

3.

How to Get Rid of a Fever?

Fever is a sign of infection and does not go immediately, and it may take two to three days to get cured completely. So a person can make themself comfortable with the following methods:
 
- Take a lukewarm bath.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Try cool compresses.
- Take good rest.
- Wear light clothes.
- Eat warm soups and nutritious food. 

4.

Is It Necessary to Get Treated for Fever?

Fevers do not require treatment every time until a person feels uncomfortable. Taking rest and drinking plenty of fluids will help. But when fever is accompanied by a severe headache, shortness of breath, stiff neck, or other unusual signs or symptoms, consulting a doctor is necessary.

5.

What Is the Duration of a Fever?

Generally, fevers caused by a virus last for 2 to 3 days; however, some fevers can be a bit longer by 1 to 2 days. At the same time, a fever caused by dengue can last up to 10 or more days. Viral fevers often resolve themselves without treatment, but adequate rest and staying hydrated are required while having a fever.

6.

Is Sweating During a Fever a Good Sign?

There is no evidence that sweat help in reducing body temperature. However, sweat is part of the body’s cooling system, so it is believed that sweating out during a fever can help. Taking a steam bath, wrapping with extra clothes or blankets, and moving around is sure to make a person sweat even more.

7.

How to Get Rid of Shivering During Fever?

Shivering is the body’s natural response to an illness. To feel comfortable, try the following:
- Wear light clothes and cover them with a light blanket.
- Stay hydrated.
- Take adequate rest.
- Sponge the body with lukewarm water.
 
- Take over-the-counter (OTC) medicine for fever, like Aspirin or Ibuprofen.

8.

What Is the Fastest Method to Get Rid of a Fever?

The symptoms of fever can be relieved by taking medicines or following some home remedies like:
- Take over-the-counter (OTC) medicine for fever.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Take a bath.
- Take supplements to boost immunity.
- Take good rest.
- Eat easily digestible foods.

9.

Is It Possible to Cure a Fever Without Medicines?

If the fever is 102°F (38.9°C) or lowers in adults, it is not necessary to consult a doctor or take medication. It is recommended to take good rest and drink a lot of fluids. However, if fever is accompanied by symptoms like headache, dizziness, diarrhea, etc., then it is required to get a medical consultation.

10.

Why Is a Rise in Body Temperature at Night?

Usually, the body temperature will be lower in the morning compared to night due to less cortisol in the blood during the night. So the white blood cells detect and fight against infections at this time, thus provoking the symptoms such as fever, congestion, chills, or sweating.

11.

Does a Fever Return After a Fever Break?

Recurrent fevers may keep coming back over time for a period. It can be due to a virus or bacterial infection or due to vaccination. The treatment of recurrent fever is similar to classic fever. Taking OTC drugs like Acetaminophen will help in managing uncomfortable symptoms.
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Dr. Jayvirsinh Indrasinh Chauhan
Dr. Jayvirsinh Indrasinh Chauhan

Homeopathy

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