Fever is a common symptom characterized by an elevation of body temperature above the normal range. It is often associated with an underlying infection or inflammation.
Fever is part of the body’s natural response to infection, as an increased temperature can help the immune system combat invading pathogens.
Normal Body Temperature
- The average normal body temperature is around 98.6°F (37°C), although it can vary slightly from person to person.
- Body temperature is regulated by the hypothalamus, a region in the brain that acts as the body’s thermostat.
Causes of Fever
- Infections: Bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic infections can trigger fever.
- Inflammatory Conditions: Autoimmune diseases and conditions involving inflammation can lead to fever.
- Heat-Related Conditions: Heatstroke or severe dehydration can cause an elevated body temperature.
- Medications: Some medications can induce a fever as a side effect.
- Certain Cancers: Fever can be associated with certain types of cancer.
- Vaccination: A mild fever is a common side effect of some vaccines.
Symptoms and Signs
- Elevated Temperature: The hallmark sign of fever is an elevated body temperature.
- Chills and Shivering: The body may attempt to raise its temperature by shivering.
- Sweating: As the fever breaks, sweating may occur.
- Headache and Muscle Aches: Common accompanying symptoms.
- Temperature Measurement: Usually done with a thermometer, either orally, rectally, tympanically (in the ear), or on the forehead.
- Clinical Examination: A healthcare professional may assess other symptoms and perform a physical examination to determine the cause of the fever.
- While fever is often a normal and beneficial response to infection, extremely high temperatures can lead to complications such as seizures (febrile seizures), especially in young children.
- Dehydration is a concern during prolonged fever, and it may require medical attention.
- Antipyretic Medications: Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (paracetamol) and ibuprofen can be used to reduce fever and alleviate associated symptoms.
- Fluids: Staying hydrated is important, especially when dealing with fever.
- Rest: Adequate rest helps the body recover from the underlying cause of the fever.
When to Seek Medical Attention
- Persistent or high fever.
- Symptoms that worsen or don’t improve.
- Signs of dehydration, such as decreased urine output.
- Fever in infants or young children.
- Febrile seizures are convulsions that can occur in young children as a result of a rapidly rising fever.
- They are generally harmless but can be alarming for parents.
Fever in Children
- Fever is a common occurrence in children, often due to viral infections.
- Monitoring and managing fever in children may involve appropriate medication, fluids, and rest.
Fever in Pregnancy
- Pregnant women are advised to seek medical attention if they develop a fever, as it can potentially affect the developing fetus.
Natural History of Fever
- Fever is a protective response that helps the body fight infections by enhancing immune function.
- It is often a temporary and self-limiting symptom.
- Fever is recognized across cultures as a sign of illness, and cultural practices may influence how fever is perceived and treated.
- Ongoing research explores the mechanisms of fever, its role in immune response, and potential new treatments for fever-related conditions.
In summary, fever is a common symptom that can be caused by various underlying conditions. While it is generally a natural and beneficial response to infection, persistent or high fever may require medical attention.
Management typically involves addressing the underlying cause, using antipyretic medications when necessary, staying hydrated, and getting adequate rest.