Fever refers to an increase in body temperature over the normal reading of 98.6 F or 37 C. A fever is the body’s way to fight an infection. Since higher body temperatures kill any bacteria or viruses that may be attacking the body, a fever is a natural defense mechanism of the body to treat an illness. Always remember that a fever is fighting for you, not against you! A fever is generally a symptom or a part of an illness or ailment and the cause of the fever depends on several underlying factors.

Temperatures can be read using a thermometer in three different ways – orally, rectally, and axillary (under the arm). Readings will differ minimally depending on the method employed. It is suggested that you use rectal thermometer readings when checking a child’s temperature for the most accurate measurement. A fever is not considered a medical condition however, until the temperature reading is significantly higher, as on an average temperatures may fluctuate a degree or so above or below normal throughout the day depending on the time of the day, the outside temperature and humidity, medications, if you have just eaten or exercised and in case of women, if you are menstruating. Low-grade fever refers to temperatures that are below 100.4 F or 38 C. Low-grade fevers should be left untreated and left to run their normal course unless there are other worrying symptoms that need medical attention. Temperatures above 100.4 F or 38 C require immediate attention especially where children and infants are concerned.

Symptoms of Fever

Fever by itself is not a disease but rather a symptom of an illness or infection. A fever makes the body’s defense mechanism work better to fight the bacteria or virus that is causing the illness. Common symptoms of a fever include:

  • An increase in body temperature
  • Chills and shivering
  • Sweating after the fever breaks
  • Headaches and body ache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Watery eyes
  • Flushed skin

If the body temperature has risen above 103 F, the person may also experience:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions
  • Irritability
  • Exhaustion

If you visit a doctor, he will perform a general physical examination to determine the cause and origin of the infection. He will check your ears, eyes, throat, chest, and abdomen in order to determine the cause of the fever and then decide on the appropriate treatment. If unsure about the reasons for the fever, further tests such as a blood test, chest x-ray, and urinalysis may also be required.

Causes of Fever

A fever can develop due to a variety of reasons. Very often there may be no real health condition present and the temperature will soon return to normal. Infections are however the most common causes of fever, and in severe cases the temperature could rise dramatically.

  • Fever can be caused by almost any bacterial and viral infections. Some common fever-causing infections include sore throats, common cold, ear infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, tuberculosis, sinusitis, bronchitis, gastroenteritis, diarrhea, vomiting, and skin infections.
  • Children may develop a fever after certain vaccinations and immunizations. Teething may also cause a low-grade fever in infants and toddlers as well.
  • Disorders that are inflammatory or autoimmune in nature such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis to name a few can also cause fevers.
  • The first symptom of certain cancers such as leukemia and diseases such as Hodgkin’s disease is often a fever.
  • Certain medications such as anti-seizure drugs, antihistamines, and antibiotics can cause fever.
  • Viral fever is caused by the influenza virus and leads to symptoms such as high temperatures, body aches, fatigue, and headaches. This strain of influenza is often seasonal (around winter) and can be treated with a vaccine as soon as the symptoms occur.
  • Bacterial infections and illnesses such as respiratory infections, infections of the central nervous system, digestive system, urinary system, reproductive system and even the circulatory system can all lead to fever. These conditions are generally treated with antibiotics and require medical attention to prevent further health complications.

Other less common causes of fever are:

  • Fungal infections can lead to fevers and are normally treated with anti-fungal medications.
  • If a person handles animals such as livestock or poultry, he may be exposed to bacterial infections that can result in fevers, body aches and chills. The bacterium that exists in certain types of animals and even in un-pasteurized dairy products can cause infections and fever.
  • Traveling to countries that have high incidences of infectious diseases can lead to fever and other symptoms. Prior to travel, you should update your vaccinations to ensure that there are no health problems during your journey. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can provide you with a list of required vaccines and medication depending on the country you plan to visit.
  • There is also a category of fever termed as FUO – Fever of Unknown Origin. Here the cause of the fever remains undetected or unknown. FUOs generally last for more than three weeks and reach temperatures of 101 F or higher. It is only much later; after the fever reduces that the cause of the illness is discovered despite many tests and evaluations.

Remedies for Fever

Mild fever does not really require any medical treatment, and home remedies may be used, simply to provide relief. In more severe cases, or when fever is simply the symptom of an infection or underlying condition, treatment will need to be directed at the underlying cause. Mild infections like the common cold or flu can be managed at home, but at times the underlying cause could be a lot more serious, requiring medical intervention.

  • If the fever is mild, general opinion suggests that you just leave it to run its course naturally. The simplest way to cope with the effects of fever would be by increasing your fluid intake and getting adequate rest.
  • In case of a high fever, the aim should be to reduce it and not eliminate it. Keep the patient comfortable and not too bundled up in blankets. The room should also be well ventilated. If the fever continues to rise, a sponge bath with lukewarm water can help cool a person down. Very cold baths or ice packs can cause more damage as they can bring about more chills and shivering.
  • Ample rest is necessary when suffering from a fever. Avoid exposure to extremes in temperature, any form of strenuous exercise, mental stress and any type of physical exertion.
  • When administering pain relief medication such as ibuprofen, make sure that you give the correct dosage to children, depending on their weight. Aspirin should not be given to children unless recommended by a doctor.

Some of the most popular home remedies for fever involve the use of herbs and other common cooking ingredients. Unfortunately, there is little supporting evidence for any of these remedies, so exercise caution when using them:

  • Boil fresh basil leaves in water. Leave to infuse and strain before drinking once a day.
  • Mix half a teaspoon of pure saffron in boiling water and have a teaspoon of this concoction on the hour while the fever is present.
  • Fenugreek seeds boiled into a tea and strained can help alleviate chest congestion and reduce a fever.
  • Soak a handful of raisins in half cup of water. Pulp them in the same water used to soak them. Strain the mix and add half a teaspoon of lime juice before having twice a day.
  • Mix half-cup grapefruit juice with half-cup water and drink this often to prevent dehydration and reduce fever symptoms.
  • Oranges are full of vitamin C and helps to boost immunity and fight an infection. Try and eat fresh oranges and orange juice while the fever is present.
  • One tablespoon of honey mixed with ginger juice and lime juice are an effective natural remedy for fever.
  • Crush together raisins with fresh ginger. Mix this with water and immerse for about an hour. Boil this concoction until reduces and drink while still warm.

Diet for Fever

Although there are no strict dietary restrictions that need to be followed it would be a good idea to follow a balanced diet, with liquids and bland foods that are easy to digest.

  • Drinking plenty of fluids is very important if you have a fever. Water, juices, soups, and jello are all easy ways to increase your fluid intake when you have no appetite.
  • Fever tends to lead to loss of appetite, so don’t force feed a patient. If he is hungry, some soft bland food is the best option. Try boiled or steamed vegetables, clear chicken or vegetable soups, and fresh fruit.
  • Soft boiled rice, barley water, and small amounts of milk can be consumed during the day.
  • Whole grain crackers and bread in small quantities may be added to a diet for fever.
  • Avoid heavy foods that are high in fat, oil, spices, and sugars. The digestive system cannot handle such meals and this may cause further problems such as indigestion and vomiting.

Suggestions for Fever

There are cases with fever (in both children and adults) when you need to call your doctor immediately. These are:

  • Has a fever that is higher than 100.4 F and
  • Lasts for longer than 48 hours
  • Has a sore throat, cough, or ear infection
  • Has another serious medical condition that may be aggravated by the fever such as a heart problem of diabetes
  • Has pain while urinating
  • Has recently traveled out of the country and may have contracted a disease while traveling
  • Has a disorder with the immune system
  • Cannot be calmed down and is crying incessantly
  • Cannot awake from sleep
  • Is disoriented and confused
  • Has a bad headache and / or a stiff neck
  • Has a seizure
  • Has nails or lips that are blue in color

Fever - Frequently asked questions
18 Fever remedies suggested by our users
Fruit and Water
suggested by [unspecified] on Wednesday, May 28, 2008

When my son gets a fever his appetite naturally decreases and I allow him to drink water (not cold) and to eat any fruit that he desires. His fevers usually diminish within 24 hours by simply eating pomegranates (if they are in season), otherwise baby carrots, apples, and grapes work just as well.

Egg Whites
suggested by Trish on Friday, March 7, 2008

I got this from another source and it really works! Soak washcloths with egg whites put on the bottom of feet and cover with socks! Brings down a fever quickly.

Sandalwood Paste
suggested by gagori on Friday, November 23, 2007

Apply sandalwood paste on forehead.

fever of unknown origin
suggested by gagori on Friday, November 23, 2007

Boil holy basil leaves & powdered cardamom. Take this with milk and sugar 2-3 times a day.

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