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Fever: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Prevention, Diet and Home remedies

Last Updated: Mar 15, 2022

What is a fever?

Fever is a medical condition that is characterised by an increase in the temperature of the body above the normal range of 98–100°F. The condition is medically referred to as pyrexia or hyperthermia. Fever occurs in both children and adults.

A fever usually occurs when the immune system detects the presence of an infection-causing pathogen in the body. The immune response involves increasing the body's temperature to eliminate the pathogen.

A number of other factors can also affect the temperature of the body. Eating, exercising, sleeping, time of the day etc can cause a slight change in the body's temperature. A nominal increase in body temperature or occasional fever usually resolves on its own without any medication.

However, a very high increase in temperature of the body can be a symptom of a serious medical condition. A person with high or recurring fever should consult a physician immediately.

What are the signs and symptoms of a fever?

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of a fever are:

  • Temperature above 100.4 F (38 C) in adults and children
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Body ache
  • Irritation
  • Shivering and chills
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Palpitations
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Pain in eyes

A person who has developed a very high fever ( i.e. temperature greater than 104 F) may also experience hallucinations, convulsions, and confusion. Toddlers and kids may also exhibit fussiness. Similarly, kids who have developed fever as a result of infection may also show symptoms such as earache, vomiting, sore throat, diarrhoea and cough.

COVID-19 Symptoms: If a person has a fever with a dry cough, they may have symptoms of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). The other common symptoms are shortness of breath and fatigue.

When should you worry about a fever?

Fever can give different symptoms at different ages, mention below a list of symptoms that are considered as alarming for:

  • Infants ( from 3 months to 24 months)
    • Rectal temperature of 100.4F - 104F
    • Feeling irritable, or uncomfortable
    • Cold
    • Cough
    • Diarrhoea
  • Children
    • Vomiting
    • Restlessness or irritable
    • Listless or poor concentration
    • Experiencing the same set of symptoms from the past 3 days
  • Adults
    • Temperature is above or around 103F
    • Headache
    • Escalating and unusual skin rash
    • Light sensitivity
    • Stiff neck
    • Pain when you bend your head forward
    • Mental confusion
    • Vomiting
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Chest pain
    • Abdominal pain
    • Pain during urination
    • Convulsions or seizures
Summary: Fever can be worrisome at anybody's temperature or age. But there are certain criteria that make it medically a matter of concern.

Is 99.7 a fever?

As per the medical experts, only the body temperature above or equal to 100 F is considered as fever. However, body temperature between 99.5F to 99.9F is known as low-grade fever.

A low-grade fever can be defined as a slightly higher temperature than usual, which is generally caused by tiredness, cold, flu, etc. in most cases it fades out within a day or two, but if not consult your doctor for a better diagnosis.

Summary: 99.7F is known as a low-grade fever which can be seen during viral or general tiredness in an individual. in most cases it fades out within a day or two, but if not contact your doctor immediately.

What are the four types of fever?

As surprising as it sounds, fever also has its types. Depending upon the root cause and its nature, here are the four types of fever that have been commonly found amongst humans:

  1. Intermittent Fever: This form of fever is caused by parasitic or bacterial infections like malaria, septicaemia, etc. the nature of the fever will remain normal in the daytime, but starts to show a significant rise in body temperature by the night.
  2. Sudden high fever: One of the most common reasons behind sudden fevers is dengue. As the name itself explained, this form of fever creates a sudden rise in human body temperature. This is also accompanied by other things like tiredness, fatigue, body ache, and headache.
  3. Remittent or continuous fever: Both forms of fever are caused by bacterial infections, however in the case of remittent it is brucellosis and in the case of continuous fever, it is pneumonia, urinary tract infection (UTI), and typhoid fever.

    Its key nature does not create much havoc, however, it does keep the body temperature 1 degree higher throughout the day and night.

  4. Rheumatic fever: commonly caused by streptococcal bacteria, this form of fever does not limit itself to high body temperature only. It also developed other forms of symptoms like throat infection, white spots on the tonsils and tongue, inflammation with headache, etc.
Summary: There are different types of fever that one can see or experience in their lifetime. The fever can be categorized on the basis of its associated symptoms and root cause.

What causes a fever?

Fever can be caused by multiple factors. Some of the most common ones are as follows:

  • Infection of the ear, lung, bladder, skin, kidney or throat
  • Food poisoning
  • Severe sunburn or heat exhaustion
  • Blood clots
  • Malignant tumour
  • Antibiotics
  • Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
  • Hyperthyroidism and other hormonal disorders
  • Intake of certain medicines used to manage high blood pressure or seizures
  • Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus and Crohn’s disease

Why does fever increase at night?

Any form of bodily infection will increase at the time of night because of one particular reason. During the nighttime, most of our body functions, which includes our body defence mechanism. In the case of fever hormone like cortisol decreases their production resulting in more discomfort and higher body temperature during sleep.

Summary: One can see a significant increase in fever during the night, this happens because of the decreased levels of cortisol during the night which makes our defence mechanism weaker.
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How to take temperature to check for fever?

To check the temperature, you can choose from one of the several types of thermometers. Oral, rectal, ear (tympanic) and forehead (temporal artery) thermometers are some of the thermometers that are commonly used.

To use an oral thermometer:

  • Clean the tip of the thermometer
  • Place the tip of the thermometer under the tongue
  • Ensure that the tip points toward the back of the mouth
  • Close the mouth
  • Wait for a minute
  • Read the temperature

How do I know if my fever is viral or bacterial?

Both bacterial and viral fevers show the same set of symptoms. It is not possible for an individual to detect whether it is a bacterial or viral infection on the basis of surface symptoms. Only your doctor can see the difference.

One can identify the presence of bacteria or a virus in a patient's body by examining their body fluids like blood, saliva, or urine.

Summary: There is no way one can identify the presence of bacteria or a virus from external symptoms of fever. Only medical testing like urine, blood, or saliva testing could let us know the presence of bacteria or viruses.

How long does a fever last?

Most cases of fever do not last long more than two or three days. Low-grade fever usually resolves with rest and OTC medication. However, if the fever is caused by an infection such as influenza, then fever and other symptoms may last nearly one week. Antibiotics and other medication can expedite recovery.

If the fever is caused by severe infection or in people with a compromised immune system (such as elderly people, infants, people with an autoimmune disorder and HIV patients), then fever can be life-threatening.

How is a fever diagnosed?

A fever is mostly a symptom of an underlying medical condition. While the fever can be diagnosed easily by measuring the temperature of the body with a thermometer, it is often not easy to diagnose the cause of the underlying condition on the basis of fever (as a symptom) alone.

To diagnose the condition, your physician may:

  • Ask you certain questions related to the symptoms, medical history, travel history etc
  • Carry out a physical exam
  • Ask you to undergo lab tests such as blood test, urine test, chest X-ray

Infants aged 28 days or younger may require hospitalization for testing and treatment.

What is the treatment for a fever?

Most fevers can be treated at home with some simple remedies. However, if your condition does not improve in 3-4 days or the temperature crosses 103°F, you must consult a doctor. It could be a sign of some serious infection in your body.

The doctor will first check your temperature to find out the severity of your condition. He may then prescribe over the counter medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, crocin and others. Do not consume antibiotics on your own.

In case you are diagnosed with serious diseases like typhoid, dengue, viral, jaundice and malaria, your treatment will follow a different route.

Does sweating mean fever is breaking?

Yes, in most cases the body starts to produce sweat in order to cold down. During fever, if one gets sweating, that means your body is slowly recovering. However cold sweat does not indicate the same. Cold sweat comes when the body is trying to cool down, however it is not a sign that an individual is recovering.

Summary: Sweating is a sign that your body is trying to lower its temperature which means it’s cooling down. Do not confuse the general sweat with the cold one as it generally indicates worsening of fever.

How to prevent a fever?

Fevers caused by infections can be prevented by limiting the exposure to infection-causing pathogens. Good hygiene practices play a key role in avoiding exposure to pathogens and their sources. Some of the good hygiene tips that can be followed to reduce the risk of infections and fevers are:

  • Wash hands as often as possible: Ensure that you wash your hands before eating, after using the washroom, after attending to your pet, after coming in contact with a sick person or after you have been in a crowd and after commuting in a public mode of transport. Also, ensure that your kids follow the same practice. Teach them how to wash and rinse their hands thoroughly with a bar of soap.
  • Use hand sanitizer: Hand sanitizers are helpful when there is no access to soap and water. However, remember to wash your hands once you have access to clean water and soap/hand wash solution.
  • Don't touch your face: Most infection-causing viruses and bacteria enter our body through nose, eyes or mouth. Therefore, it is essential that you avoid touching these parts.
  • Avoid passing germs: Cover your nose and mouth while sneezing and coughing. Ask your kids to do the same. If possible, try to maintain a distance and turn away from others when sneezing or coughing.
  • Avoid sharing utensils: Do not share utensils, cups, water bottles with your children.

Can I go for a walk with a fever?

During fever, it is important for the body to have adequate rest. If you feel like you can have a slow walk in your home or to nearby surroundings. Doctors advised avoiding any heavy exercise or physical work during the time of fever.

Summary: In the general case, very light physical activity like walking during fever is good. But make sure not to push yourself too hard for more as it can slow down the recovery process.

Is rest good for fever?

Yes, resting allows your body to completely heal. Resting during fever also allows a person to have all its resources used to get recovered. It also helps the recovery to be more speedy. Rest does not include bed rest it also includes, adequate sleep, intake of fluids, and good food.

Summary: Resting gives your body an space to use its all resources towards recovery. So it is important for an individual to have adequate rest during fever time.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

One session of consultation with a doctor may cost you between ₹200 - ₹600. The cost of acetaminophen may be around ₹100 per 500ml. Ibuprofen may cost around ₹10 per 50ml.

What are the complications of fever?

A low-grade fever is unlikely to cause any complications. However, high fever i.e. body temperature greater than 103 F can lead to complications such as:

  • Dehydration
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

The complications are more common in kids aged between 0.5 to 6 years. In kids, fever may lead to fever-induced convulsions (febrile seizures). Febrile seizures are not associated with any lasting effects.

What are the foods to avoid in a fever?

There are certain foods that should not be consumed by people with fever. These foods include:

  • Caffeinated drinks and alcohol
  • Greasy foods
  • Hard to digest grains
  • Sugary food
  • Red meat
  • Shellfish
  • Unpasteurized milk and dairy products
  • Soda

What is the best diet for a fever?

Some of the best foods to consume in a fever include:

  • Chicken soup
  • Broth
  • Garlic
  • Coconut water
  • Hot tea
  • Honey
  • Ginger
  • Bananas
  • Yogurt
  • Oatmeal
  • Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, pomegranates, cranberries, blueberries and blackberries

Is drinking cold water good for fever?

Yes, drinking cold water during fever may help you lower your fever. You can also use a cold compress on the patient's head to give the burning head a rest. However, if the fever is accompanied by other symptoms like cold, cough, sore throat, etc.

It is not a good idea to keep the body in a cold as it is the reason why the body gets infected in the first place.

Summary: In case the fever is not connected to other symptoms like cold, cough, sore throat, etc. consumption of cold water and use of cold water compress during fever is beneficial.

What are the natural ways to treat fever?

Fever generally goes away on its own within a few days. If you do not want to undergo medications, you may try to rest and let it pass. You can avoid catching fever in the future by following a healthy lifestyle and consuming a nutritious diet. Take proper care of your hygienic conditions. Do not over exert your body and remember to change your lifestyle according to the change in weather.

What are the home remedies to treat a fever?

Most episodes of fever can be treated at home. There are certain measures that be taken to treat mild fever at home. Those measures include:

  • Hydrate yourself by increasing intake of water, juices or rehydration drink (such as Pedialyte)
  • Take bath with lukewarm water
  • Decrease the level of activity and take proper rest
  • Take OTC medicine such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Stay cool in bed with light clothing and bed covering. If possible, adjust room temperature
Summary: Fever is generally described as a sudden rise in temperature due to any bacterial or viral infection. Depending upon its cause and nature one can categorize it into different types and subtypes. In most cases, it can be treated with some rest and over-the-counter medication. However if not one needs to see a medical professional as it can be a sign of something more critical.

References

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Written ByDr. S.Sagin Raj Diploma in Diabetology,CCRH (certificate in reproductive health),MBBS,F.F.M(family medicine)General Physician
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