Fevers are frequent across the world and everyone is susceptible to a dose of fever at some point.
In general terms, a fever is a rise in your body’s temperature above the normal range of the body’s typical heat. Of course, you do not have a fever every time your temperature rises, but if your temperature remains high for a period of time and you feel otherwise unwell, the likelihood is you are suffering from some form of fever.
Though we feel unwell with a fever, in fact a fever is usually the body fighting back! Fevers are actually part of the way your body fights off infection and returns to a normal healthy state.
Being aware of temperature ranges is important.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the normal body temperature range is 36.5°C – 37.5°C (97.7°F – 99.5°F).
So if you have a temperature higher than this range, it is possible that you have a fever. The scale or severity of the fever will be linked to how far you are above the normal range of a body’s temperature.
Sometimes a fever can be mild, and the body may only be a little above the normal temperature you would expect. But there are occasions when the body really is extremely hot and these are severe fevers that need careful attention and medical attention.
Understand when to seek medical attention
The key signs to look out for when deciding whether you need medical attention are your body’s temperature and the length of time you have been suffering from the rise in your body’s heat.
If your fever has lasted around three days and shows no sign of diminishing in temperature, it may be time to see your doctor.
Additionally, if your fever is over 102 degrees Fahrenheit, this could indicate a more serious infection and medical treatment might be necessary. If your body is at this temperature you will certainly feel run down, and possibly quite seriously unwell.
In addition, fevers may cause, or be linked to, other symptoms of illness that require medical attention in themselves. These can include nausea, lethargy, or bodily pain. You may well feel extremely stiff with significant muscle ache.
On these occasions, when you feel your whole body under pressure and in duress, you are wise to seek medical advice from a doctor of health service.
Identify the symptoms of fever
There are some core symptoms that indicate you may be suffering from, or about to suffer from, a fever. Be aware of the following indicators.
- A general feeling of fatigue or exhaustion
- Sweating after even very moderate physical movement
- An increased heart rate
- A relatively sudden sore throat
- A bout of coughing
- Shivering and chills
This last point might sound counterintuitive, but a fever can make you feel extremes of heat that are not connected to the actual temperature of the room you are in, or the time of year, or the actual temperature of your body. On occasions, a fever can make you feel cold, even although your temperature is high.
Causes of Fever
Bacterial or viral infection
Not everyone immediately assumes a fever has a bacterial cause, but the truth is there really are many fevers that are caused and exacerbated by bacterial infections. Hygiene is incredibly important in staying fever-free.
Bacterial infections are typically spread through direct contact with an infected person or object. If you then touch your mouth or nose or eyes with bacteria on your hands, there is a risk of infection and an associated fever.
Food hygiene is essential, of course, and forms of food poisoning can often lead to a fever in the body as it fights off the infection and works fast to eject or expel the illness. Fevers are uncomfortable, but they are often how the body releases the toxins associated with bacterial infections.
Viral infections are the other core cause of fevers and are more likely to be airborne. They can actually be trickier to get rid of, as they are less susceptible to antibiotics.
Common signs of viral infections include fever, fatigue, sore throat, and an overall feeling of congestion in your sinuses.
Knowing whether you are suffering from a viral or a bacterially caused fever can be important, as it may influence the treatment.
Side effects of certain vaccinations
Fevers can sometimes be caused by vaccinations. As we all saw in the covid pandemic, the vaccines that were used did cause some short-term side-effects in some people, and in a small number of cases that side-effect was a fever.
The fever will perhaps also be accompanied in those circumstances by other symptoms, such as redness or pain at the injection site and a degree of fatigue. But if you have a fever, you need to rest and allow the side-effects to pass.
Remember that vaccines are overwhelmingly exceptionally safe, however, so whatever side effects you may have are likely to be short-lived and not cause serious health problems.
Get plenty of rest and drink fluids
You may instinctively want to take a pill or tablet to address an illness like a fever, but this is not always the best approach.
In fact the best way to treat and respond to a fever often requires simpler remedies and approaches.
Above all, rest!
When your body is run down and listless, or, in serious fevers, absolutely exhausted, you really must rest up and not force the body into unnatural exertions. Fevers can be worsened by not resting sufficiently. They can become more serious and lead to more significant additional side-effect illnesses if you do not respect the initial fever appropriately.
In addition, the other absolutely central treatment is to make sure you remain hydrated appropriately. In a fever, your body is sweating out many important minerals and you need to replace these to help continue fighting off infection. You also need to hydrate to ensure that urinary function remains effective, as urinary function is also part of how we expel illness.
Antibiotics should typically be reserved for specific circumstances, such as a bacterial infection, and will only ever be prescribed by a medical professional.
Home Remedies to Break a Fever
Sleep has extraordinary healing powers. A good night’s rest means just that: if you sleep well it really is a good night’s rest.
If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, try to find ways to relax. The following can be useful.
- Taking a warm bath before going to bed
- Reading a book to help you unwind
- Breathing deeply and exhaling in long slow breaths can be an excellent soporific
- Ginger and honey drinks can be very helpful in supporting a good sleep
- Herbal teas, such as camomile, can send you to sleep well
- Scenting your pillow with menthol or lavender can also ais sleep
The above methods are focused on relaxing the body, and so aiding rest.
Remember, however, that you need to stay hydrated, so do make sure to have some form of drink, even a little one, before sleep. A hot lemon or lime drink is an excellent option.
Applying cool washcloths to the forehead and wrists
Cool cloths placed on the forehead and wrists work to transfer the heat from the body to the cloth, which helps cool the body down. The heat transfer is an important mechanism that lowers your body’s temperature and makes you feel calmer and less intensely hot.
On its own, it is not going to get rid of the fever, but it can be a very effective way of making you feel more comfortable during the processes of the body fighting off the infection.
Taking non-aspirin pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen
These two types of drug are useful to have in mind, but, as ever, seek advice from a pharmacist or health service before making a decision as to which, if any, may help your condition.
Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) and it ultimately works to help a fever by reducing inflammation.
Acetaminophen is a different form of palliative, and works by blocking the production of pain signals. It is less likely to be of use in a moderate fever, but if you are suffering from significant muscular ache, it may help palliate the symptoms.
Having lukewarm baths
The power of waters should not be underestimated. Waters can genuinely help in healing.
Though it may sound implausible, a lukewarm bath can help cool down your body temperature. So long as the water is temperate and not too hot or cold, your body’s overall temperature will lower after a short bath.
If you add Epsom salts, or magnesium sulfate, to the bath in a small dose, you may also find that you feel relaxed. These salts are renowned for their ability to rehydrate skin and relax muscles, aiding in sleep.
Avoiding excessively hot environments
It will not be a surprise to find that when you are fevered you should do all you can to avoid hot environments. The key is to keep your body at a moderate temperature as it fights off its infections.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If a fever lasts more than three days
Most fevers will pass without medical attention, but if you have a prolonged fever – typically one that is three days long or more – it may be time to seek additional advice.
If the fever has not begun to abate and your temperature fall, then you may have additional symptoms that require addressing.
If the fever is very high, typically defined as 102°F or higher
In such circumstances, you should check with a health service provider if you need additional attention. These fevers may benefit more from the intervention of a prescription drug, or even the advice to take ibuprofen.
As with all medical conditions, monitoring the symptoms is essential. Keep a regular check on your temperature so that you can inform the doctor of the progress of your temperature.
Do not be afraid to contact your doctor. Extreme fevers can be surrogates for wider problems with your health. The fever may actually just be the sign of a more serious issue with the workings of your body, so never be afraid to seek advice.
If the fever is accompanied by other symptoms such as a rash, stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea
When there are other symptoms, like those above, it can sometimes be difficult to know whether they are caused by the fever, or the cause of the fever. To get to the bottom of what is the root medical problem when there are multiple symptoms, you are wise to contact a doctor.
Though the chances are that they will all pass in line with the fever, you may feel reassured by professional medical advice. Only you, after all, know what you’re feeling, and if you have existing health issues and are medicating for those, it may be especially wise to check with a doctor about how best to treat your fever.
If the person experiencing the fever is an infant or elderly
Age matters with fevers.
If you have an infant with a fever, there is a clear need to be extra vigilant. The chances are that the fever will pass and be part of how that infant fights off more serious possible infections and builds up its immune system, but it can be extremely concerning to see a child with a fever and, as a parent, you want to make sure you are not doing the wrong thing. Always feel able to seek a nurse’s or doctor’s or pharmacist’s advice. Infant fevers are quite common, but you should always feel able to seek professional insight.
With an elderly person it is always wise to seek medical attention or insight, as there may be complications relating to other existing health conditions. If you are elderly and have a fever, never be afraid to call on professional advice. The chances are your fever will pass normally, but it is better to be safe.
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