Outfoxing a Fever

What is a Fever?

This may sound like an idi­otic ques­tion, but if you’re going to beat a fever, you need to know what you’re up against. On the sur­face, a fever is sim­ply an abnor­mally high body tem­per­a­ture, usu­ally accom­pa­ny­ing an ill­ness or other med­ical con­di­tion. A tem­per­a­ture of greater than 100.4 degrees is con­sid­ered febrile.

Fever is one of the body’s nat­ural reac­tions to dis­ease and a defense against infec­tions. A num­ber of con­di­tions that cause fever include:

  • Infec­tions and infec­tious dis­eases such as influenza, HIV, malaria, mononu­cle­o­sis, and gastroenteritis.
  • Med­i­cines such as antibi­otics, nar­cotics, bar­bi­tu­rates, and antihistamines
  • Trauma or injury like heart attack, stroke, heat­stroke, and burns.
  • Dam­age to tis­sue from hemol­y­sis (the break­ing open of blood cells), surgery, heart attack, crush syn­drome, or hemorrhage.
  • Other con­di­tions that can cause fever include: skin inflam­ma­tion, arthri­tis, hyper­thy­roidism, inflam­ma­tory bowel dis­ease, etc.

Beat­ing the Heat

It’s impor­tant to under­stand that a fever is one of the body’s nat­ural reac­tions to dis­ease and, as such, not all fevers need to be treated. Fever can be an impor­tant indi­ca­tor whether or not a treat­ment is work­ing. They also increase the lev­els of antivi­ral and anti­cancer inter­feron in the blood, mak­ing it harder for viruses and bac­te­ria to multiply.

For a fever of less than 102 degrees, not treat­ment is needed. The best thing to do in this case is wait for it to pass. For a tem­per­a­ture of greater than 102, there are some things you can do:

  • Don’t panic. Don’t go for the meds to quickly or you’ll get rid of your fever before your body fixes the issue it needed to have a fever for.
  • Take antipyretic med­ica­tions like ibupro­fen, aceta­minophen, or aspirin. (Note: Aspirin should not be admin­is­tered to kids younger than 18.)
  • Cool your body down by tak­ing luke­warm show­ers or baths, apply­ing damp cloths or icepacks to your head, legs, feet, and neck, and dress­ing in light, comfy clothes.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of flu­ids, espe­cially water.
  • Eat if you get hun­gry. Don’t force food down your throat, but if you need to, eat some­thing. Try some soup if you aren’t sure.
  • Stay com­fort­able. Get plenty of rest and keep the room cool.
  • If your fever rises beyond 104 degrees or last sev­eral days, go see a doctor.