About fevers and how to deal with them
A fever or a high temperature, AKA febril, isn’t an illness in itself. It’s a symptom, often of an infection. Depending on your age, state of health and the cause of the fever, you might not need any treatment. Many experts believe a fever is one of your body’s natural defences against infection, and it may be wise let it take its course as long as it isn’t serious. There are also a whole load of non-infectious causes of fever.
What is hyperthermia?
When you’re hyperthermic you can’t control your core temperature, which means you can get dangerously hot. This can happen because of heat stroke or a stroke, but can also be a side effect of some medicines as well as a sign of illicit drug use.
The symptoms of hyperthermia are:
- A serious fever
- Lost appetite
- Sore throat and cough
- Painful ears
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
What to do if your child has a fever
If you or someone you know experiences the above symptoms, especially if they’re very young or a baby, see a doctor immediately. The same goes if a child has a temperature of 104F or more, since high fever can cause seizures in youngsters.
If your two-year-old child’s fever lasts more than a day, call the doctor. The same goes if your child is two years old or more and has had a fever for more than three days.
What causes fever?
Your hypothalamus, lodged in the brain, controls body temperature. It can automatically reset your body’s temperature higher when you’re ill or infected, which is why so many experts feel it’s a natural and useful response to infection rather than something to worry about even when it’s mild.
Common causes of fever include:
- The common cold
- Gastroenteritis (stomach upsets)
- Ear, lung, skin, throat, bladder and kidney infections
- Any illness that causes tissue inflammation
- A side effect of some medicines
- Blood clots
- Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Hormonal disorders
- Illegal drugs like speed and cocaine
How to diagnose a fever
Diagnosis is easy. All you need is a thermometer. But determining the cause of a fever isn’t always that simple.
Your doctor will examine you and ask about your symptoms, any medications you’re taking and whether you’ve been abroad recently. Some countries and regions are at specific risk of certain illnesses and knowing you’ve been to such an area gives your GP essential clues about what’s giving you the fever.
It’s very common to suffer from a fever with no known origin, and they often go away by themselves. But sometimes a fever might be masking something serious like a chronic infection, problems with your connective tissue and even cancer.
How to treat a fever
If you have a bacterial infection that’s giving you a fever, antibiotics can do the trick. But don’t demand them from your doctor. New government guidelines designed to stop antibiotic over-use and abuse are in place and GPs are under great pressure to stop prescribing them on demand, especially when they won’t do any good. Your GP knows best.
The commonest treatments, however, are ordinary, over-the-counter medicines like aspirin and Ibuprofen. Just bear in mind children and teens shouldn’t take aspirin because it has been linked with the rare but sometimes fatal Reye’s syndrome. If you give your child aspirin when they have a fever, or other symptoms of a viral illness like everyday flu or chicken pox, you’ll put them at particular risk of Reye’s.
Travel vaccines and fever
Our qualified, eperienced travel nurses will advice you about which travel vaccines can cause a fever, and what to do if it happens to you.