Almost all of us get down with fever once in a while. Fever is marked in each individual by rising temperatures above the normal, body ache, and a loss of appetite. Soaring body temperatures are an integral part of the body’s immune response when it encounters an infection.
Infectious agents such as viruses and bacteria can thrive well at normal body temperatures. Thus, to fight off these agents, the immune system raises the body temperature in a bid to attack their survival.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a body temperature higher than 99.5°F or 37.5°C qualifies as a fever in a child. In adults, a body temperature exceeding 99°F to 99.5°F or 37.2°C to 37.5°C is considered a fever.
Facts About Fever
Fever, or Pyrexia, has this nuanced definition for many reasons:
- “Normality” in temperature can range from 37.0°C to 38.3°C (98.6°F to 100.9°F). Additionally, “normality” in temperature is age dependent. Neonates can even develop hypothermia in illness.
- Fever can exist in patterns: continuous (always elevated), intermittent or relapsing/ undulating (cyclical between normality and fever), and periodic, which is time-based (i.e., monthly associated with menstruation).
- Fever differs from hyperthermia, in that hyperthermia is exposure to thermal energy, such as the sun, which may create the inability to get rid of heat from the body.
- The measurement of temperature varies from site to site. Oral measurements are, in general, 1 degree (C/F) higher than a temperature obtained in the armpit. A rectal temperature (which should be the first line for infants, neonates, and toddlers), in general, is 1 degree higher (C/F) than an oral temperature measurement.
Causes of Fever
Fever is not an illness per se but a symptom of an underlying infection that the body is encountering. Usually, fever can be categorized as:
The causes of noninfectious fever are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Some antihistamine and antibiotic medications
- Overexposure of skin to sunlight, sunburn, and heat stroke
- Response to immunization in children
- Autoimmune diseases and disorders
- Drug abuse
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Blood clots
- Silicosis, a type of lung disease caused by long-term exposure to silica dust
Running a high temperature for more than 4 days can be due to some underlying causes:
- Kidney infections
- Ear, nose, and throat infections
- An infection, such as strep throat, chicken pox, malaria, or pneumonia
- Urinary tract infections
- Skin infections
- Sexually transmitted disease
An unhygienic lifestyle may also contribute to a fever.
Signs and Symptoms of Fever
The signs that you are running a temperature include:
- Muscle aches (myalgias)
- Joint aches (arthralgias)
- Profuse sweating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shivering and chills
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Sore eyes
- Feeling drained
- Rapid heart rate
- In the case of children and toddlers, crankiness, lack of activity, and poor eating and sleeping pattern
Very high temperatures >104 °F are high-grade fevers and can engender convulsions and hallucinations. Seek medical attention in such cases
High-grade fevers can induce seizures. Fever-induced convulsions can cause a loss of consciousness, hallucinations, and shaking of limbs.
Most seizures go away on their own, but it is advised to seek medical attention in such cases.
In general, most nonmedical fevers have specific target treatment modalities. Many viral illnesses are self-limiting, which means they resolve within days with minimal pharmacological intervention.
Mild fever can be treated with several over-the-counter medications to make the patient feel better. However, take note of the following precautions:
- A fever that exceeds 104°F or 40°C in an individual can be fatal. Seek immediate medical attention in such cases.
- All individuals with fever should stay well hydrated to avoid dehydration. Pale-colored urine is a sign of the excretion of excess water by the kidneys.
- Avoid fried foods and concentrate on low-sodium soups and broths and the consumption of fruits and green leafy vegetables.
- Bed rest is essential.
- The avoidance or reduction of alcoholic beverages is advisable.
- In infants and children:
- Do not give any medications to a child younger than 2 months old.
- Never give an ice-cold bath to a child.
- Do not use ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) in children less than 6 months old.
- Aspirin is not to be given to a child younger than 18 years old. This is to prevent a rare form of a disease called Reye’s syndrome.
Fever can be prevented by taking measures that restrict the entry of pathogens into your system. This can be accomplished by targeting your personal hygiene.
- Ensure proper hand washing especially before and after meals, after using the restroom, after spending time in a crowd, when in the vicinity of a sick person or animals, and after traveling in a public transport.
- Teach and instill the same hygiene habits in your children.
- Keep a hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose to limit the entry of pathogens.
- Cover your nose when you sneeze and mouth when you cough to avoid passing germs along.
- Avoid sharing utensils especially with a sick individual.
- Separate the clothing of the ill from that of people without illness when washing clothes.When to See a Doctor
The baseline temperature for a human body is 98.6°F; anything above that is recorded as a fever. Fever is usually the body’s defense to attack microbial invasion. Mild fever goes away on its own.
A fever calls for medical attention when it is of a high grade, that is, more than 102°F and stays for days. Such a condition may be caused by an underlying condition that calls for medical intervention.
Fever in infants can be caused as a response to immunization or as a result of being wrapped up in clothes and blankets. Certain cases require medical attention
- Baby under the age of 3 months showing a rectal temperature reading of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
- If your baby is between ages 3 months and 3 years and shows the following:
- A rectal temperature that ranges from 102°F (38.9°C) to higher
- Seems unusually irritated
- Is fussy and uncomfortable
- Fever that stays longer than a day
- Is lethargic
- Fever accompanied by cold, cough, or diarrhea
Always use a digital rectal thermometer to measure temperature in toddlers and infants.
In the case of neonates, immediately seek medical attention (if necessary, via ambulance). No thoughts-just go.
A fever is not a red flag if your child is responding to your actions, playing, or consuming adequate fluids and food.
Consult a doctor only if your child:
- Is cranky
- Complains of a headache or stomachache
- Has a fever that stays for more than 4 days
- Is inactive
- Is not responding as usual
An adult should seek medical attention in case of fever accompanied by:
- Rashes that worsen
- Shortness of breath
- Severe headache
- Stiffness in neck
- Pain while urinating
- Pain in the abdomen
Tips and Remedies to Get Relief from Fever
Rising body temperatures can leave you drained and restless. A better solution to bring down your mercury levels is resorting to home remedies.
From the vast array of remedies, we are delineating some of the ways to overcome your fever.
1. Get Some Rest
Appropriate rest should be on the top of your priority list when you are down with a fever. Bed rest is the first and foremost need of your body to get back on track.
By restricting yourself from engaging in activities, you conserve energy that the body can expend on fighting infections.
2. Sponge Your Body
- Soak a sponge or a washcloth in fresh tap water, wring out the excess water. Sponge areas like your forehead, armpits, feet, hands, and groin to bring down the temperature. Keep changing the cloth piece regularly. This remedy is beneficial when dealing with high fever, and fever induced by sunstroke.
- Mix 1-2 tablespoons of white vinegar in 1 cup of water. Immerse a sponge or washcloth in the mix, wring out the excess water and apply this compress in the armpits, under the knee and forearm to bring down the temperature to normal.
3. Keep Your Fluid Intake in Check
Staying well hydrated in fever is of primary importance to replace fluid loss as a result of sweating. To avoid getting dehydrated, keep a check on your water intake.
Coconut water, fruit juices, low sodium chicken or vegetable soups and broths, appear to assist in the maintenance of normal hydration status.
Alternatively, you can also complement your water intake by adding ingredients, brimming with bioactive compounds. As an added plus these potent herbs that have been used for generations as a home remedy can help you fight infections and get rid of the fever and associated symptoms.
4. Dietary Additions
- Boil together 20 basil leaves and 1 teaspoon of crushed ginger in 2 cups of water, until the solution gets reduced to half. Add a little honey and drink this mix two to three times a day for three days.
- To 1 cup of boiled water, add 1 teaspoon of basil and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Steep for 5 minutes, and then strain and drink the tea. Drink it two to three times daily until you recover completely.
Raisins contain copious amounts of phytonutrients that are accredited with antibacterial and antioxidant properties. This may help the body fight infections and reduce fever.
- Soak 25 raisins in a 1/2 cup of water until they are soft.
- Crush the soaked raisins and strain the liquid.
- Add 2 tablespoons of lime juice to this mix.
- Consume this juice twice a day.
Ginger is teeming with bioactive compounds, including gingerols and shogaols, that offer a slew of health benefits.
Aside from its conventional usage to heal the digestive system, ginger is an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial agent that can help the immune system fight infections and reduce fever.
- Prepare ginger tea using 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger and adding it to 1 cup of boiling water. Let it steep for a few minutes. Drizzle some honey and enjoy this tea three to four times a day.
The bioactive compound in turmeric curcumin helps the immune system fight infections and reduces the duration of fever.
- To 1 cup of hot milk, add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper powder. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of honey. Drink this mixture twice a day.
5. Try Foot Reflexology
Garlic can also tamp down a high fever by promoting sweating.
- Prepare a blend of two crushed garlic cloves and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Warm this mixture and apply it over the sole of each foot, leaving a few spots. To keep the garlic in place, wrap your feet with a cloth or a gauze. Leave it on overnight.
Using Egg Whites
Bearing no scientific evidence, egg whites are an old wives’ remedy to reduce body temperatures considerably.
- Soak a paper towel or a thin handkerchief in egg white and place it on the soles of your feet. Wear socks to keep the egg white-soaked cloth in place. When the cloths dry out and become warm, replace them with new ones.
- Spearmint and eucalyptus oil rubs on the body can induce sweating.
- Elderberry tea and boneset tea with honey twice a day are effective for fevers and associated symptoms of the common cold. Although their use is limited by side effects of nausea, vomiting, and possible toxicity of the liver.
- You can prepare a concoction of 1/2 teaspoon of ginger juice, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of honey. Consume this mixture three or four times daily until your fever is gone.
- You can prepare garlic tea by adding a finely minced garlic clove in 1 cup of boiled water. Steep the garlic cloves for 10 minutes, strain the liquid and sip it slowly. Drink this twice a day.
- Make a paste of sandalwood powder and water and lather a thick spread on your forehead.
- Take complete rest for 1 or 2 days.
- Consume plenty of green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits to improve your immunity.
- Keep yourself hydrated.
- Avoid eating processed foods.
- Avoid smoking as well as drinking alcoholic drinks.
The body’s immune response is manifested in the form of elevated body temperatures in the face of a pathogenic attack. High body temperature, aka fever, is accompanied by other symptoms and is a cause of significant concern.
Being used for thousands of years, natural alternatives can help your fever subside without recourse to over-the-counter treatments that have only been used for less than one century.
A slight rise in body temperature can be regulated by adequate rest, fluid intake and natural interventions that are effective in fever abatement without the side effects of ibuprofen and acetaminophen (Tylenol).
However, a perpetual spike in body temperature above 102°F is qualified as high-grade fever and requires prompt medical attention.
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