What is a Fever?

A fever is generally simply described as an elevation of a person’s body temperature. The average “normal” body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C), but when a person has a fever, their body temperature temporarily rises above that level. The level at which a fever is considered serious of severe depends upon the age of the person suffering from the fever. In infants, a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) is cause for concern and reason for immediate medical care. However, in an adult a fever of 103°F (39.5°C) or higher is considered a medical emergency.

There are numerous potential reasons that a person may have a fever. Fevers are usually a symptom of an illness or infection. Fevers can occur along with viral infections like the flu or common cold, or can be symptoms of bacterial infections like staph or strep.

People can also develop fevers if they have recently received a vaccination. A severe sunburn can cause a person to experience a fever and heat exhaustion or heat stroke could also be the cause. Detoxification from drugs or alcohol, cancer treatments, and numerous other medical issues could also cause a fever.

What are the Symptoms of a Fever?

A fever is in and of itself a symptom of numerous conditions. However, there are also symptoms of fevers.

Symptoms include

Oftentimes, a person who is feverish feels more tired or lethargic than usual. They may also have trouble regulating their body temperature, alternating between feeling extremely hot and cold. Fevers that are high can also cause a person to suffer from dehydration, hallucinations, and even convulsions or seizures.

Fever Causes

A fever is an elevated temperature caused as a result of an underlying health condition. A fever is the immune system’s response to fighting an infection. Some of the most common causes include a virus, bacterial infection, heat exhaustion, inflammatory issues such as rheumatoid arthritis, or a malignant tumor. Additionally, a fever can also be caused as a result of medications used to treat high blood pressure, reaction to vaccines, overexposure to the sun or high temperatures, dehydration, alcohol withdrawal, and amphetamine abuse. A high fever, one that reaches 38 Centigrade or 100.4 Fahrenheit, is considered serious and should be closely monitored. Sometimes a fever may require hospitalization to prevent further complications.

How is a Fever Treated?

The treatment for a fever depends on its severity as well as the underlying condition that caused a person to develop a fever.

Treatment includes

If a fever is extremely high, the first concern will be to bring it down to less dangerous levels. Hyperprexia, the term for a fever between 104°F (40°C) and 107°F  (41.5°C), needs to be treated with prescription medications (usually administered through IV) and rapid cooling techniques like ice baths.

However a common fever can be treated with over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen as well as rest and fluids. Antibiotics can help if a bacterial infection is to blame for the fever and antivirals may be able to help with certain viral infections.

Fever Prevention

Because fevers are typically a result of a pre-existing condition, treating the primary condition is usually the initial step in preventing a fever. Usually a fever can be prevented using over-the-counter or home remedies, but treatment varies depending on the underlying cause. The most common recommendation is rest and plenty of fluids. But, if a fever is caused by a bacterial infection, it can be prevented through prescribing antibiotics. Antiviral medications are also sometimes prescribed when a patient has a viral infection. The most common at-home preventions include using over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen. However, aspirin is not recommended in children as it has been linked to Reyes Syndrome.

It is recommended that consistent hand washing, covering your mouth when you sneeze and using tissues to capture sputum are ways to help prevent a fever. Patients are also encouraged to stay hydrated and rest as much as needed. If at all possible avoid excessive interaction with others to prevent the spread of the bacteria or viruses to others which could lead to fevers in future patients.