A fever is never a pleasant thing to experience and sadly, it’s one of the first and longest symptom you will face when your body is invaded by a number of bacterial and viral infections. By itself, a fever is not actually considered to be a medical illness but more a symptom of something else – there is always another underlying cause behind it.
There are a number of causes behind a fever although usually, it will be caused by one of the following:
- A bacterial infection
- A viral infection
- Extreme sunburn
- Heat exhaustion
- Rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions
- Medications to treat seizures and high blood pressure
- Malignant tumors
- Immunizations such as pneumococcal vaccine or the DTap vaccine
What happens when you have a fever?
The body’s natural way to fight back against something that shouldn’t be there, like a bacterial or viral infection, is to heat things up to try and sweat it out. You have a built-in thermostat within your brain called the hypothalamus and this regulates what your body temperature is. When something has invaded, the hypothalamus turns the temperature up and this is what causes your fever or fever-like symptoms.
There is only one actual symptom of a fever – a body temperature of more than 37C or 98.6F.
Depending on the underlying cause of your fever, there could be a number of other associated symptoms and these include:
- Muscle aches
- Being very hot
- Being very cold
- No appetite
- Fatigue or exhaustion
A severe fever is one that lies between 39.4C (103F) and 41.1C (106F) and will come with the following side effects:
- Confusion and hallucinations
When should you seek medical advice for a fever?
A fever can go away by itself but it will depend on what is causing the problem. In some cases you may need medical treatment and at the very least, you are likely to need a few days away from work to spend in bed as rest and recuperation.
You should seek medical advice for a fever in the following situations:
- An infant under the age of 3 months has a temperature of more than 38C (100.4F)
- An infant between the age of 3 and 6 months has a temperature of more than 38.9C (102F)
- An infant with a fever and any of the following symptoms – lethargy, irritability, diarrhea, cough, cold, headaches, muscle aches, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping and trouble breathing.
- If a child or an adult has a fever that lasts for longer than 3 days.
- If a child or an adult has a fever alongside vomiting or diarrhea.
- If a child or an adult has a fever and can’t maintain eye contact.
- If anyone has a fever accompanied with a rash, breathing difficulties or chest pain, a sensitivity to light, confusion, seizures, pain with urination or muscle aches.
How to break a fever
If you are experiencing fever-like symptoms and want them to pass as quickly as possible, there are a few things you can do to try and hurry things along.
1 – Stay cool
We know you want to wrap yourself up and keep warm because you’re shivering and you feel cold but that’s the worst thing you can do for a fever. Heating yourself up by hiding under blankets is just confusing your body’s thermostat even further. The best thing to do when you have a fever is keep yourself cool. Throw back the blankets.
2 – Use a cold towel
If you soak a towel in cool water and then wring it out, you have the perfect cold compress and when this is placed across the forehead as you are lying down, it can help to bring down your body’s temperature. You will need to change it regularly to ensure it is still cool and you could even try multiple towels on multiple areas of the body – ankles, wrists, neck and forehead being popular choices for immediate relief.
3 – Have a cool bath
It’s the last thing you’re going to want to do but the best thing you can do. By submerging yourself in cool water, you’re bringing down your temperature all over at once. It’s like a cool compress for your entire body.
You should never use ice cold water because this can cause the body to go into shock which will obviously make the situation worse.
4 – Try fever-reducing medication
There are a number of medications you can buy over the counter to break a fever and you will need to keep an eye out for ingredients like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin and other antipyretics.
5 – Make sure you drink enough
The worst thing about drinking lots of water is that you’ll be running to the toilet every five minutes but this is a good thing when you’re sick because it means the toxins are being flushed out of your body quicker. With those toxins goes the bug that’s making you sick right now.
When you drink more water you’re also providing the body with more hydration in order to be fit and healthy. Some of that hydration will go towards the immune system and right now you need that to be at its peak.
6 – Sleep it off
When you’re told to rest, it’s for good reason. Having a fever really takes it out of you and you are likely to be exhausted for a few days before, during and after your fever hits.
When you rest and sleep, your immune system is recharging itself, ready to fight the bugs away again. When you are tired and rundown, your body will suffer. Sleeping it off is the best thing you can do.
7 – Drink herbal tea
There are a number of herbals teas that have been said to help break a fever. There is Echinacea tea which has a number of properties to help fight back against the cold and chills and these include anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory.