Disease: Fever

Aches, pain, fever facts

  • Although a fever could be considered any body temperature above the normal 98.6 F (37 C), medically, a person is not considered to have a significant fever until the temperature is above 100.4 F (38.0 C).
  • Most fever is beneficial, causes no problems, and helps the body fight off infections. The main reason to treat a fever is to increase comfort.
  • Fever is the result of an immune response by your body to a foreign invader. These foreign invaders include viruses, bacteria, fungi, drugs, or other toxins.
  • Children under 3 months of age with a temperature of 100.4 F (38.0 C) or greater should be seen by a health care professional. They may be quite ill and not show any signs or symptoms besides a fever. Infants less than 6 weeks of age should be seen immediately by their doctor.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can be used to treat a fever. Aspirin should not be used in children or adolescents to control fever.
  • The prognosis for a fever depends on the cause. Most cases of fever are self-limited and resolve with symptomatic treatment.
  • A person who is taking immunosuppressant drugs or who has a history of or diagnosis of cancer, AIDS, or other serious illness, such as heart disease or diabetes, should seek medical care if a fever develops.

Learn more about: Tylenol | Aspirin

What is a fever?

Fever refers to an elevation in body temperature. Technically, any body temperature above the normal oral measurement of 98.6 F (37 C) or the normal rectal temperature of 99 F (37.2 C) is considered to be elevated. However, these are averages, and one's normal body temperature may actually be 1 F (0.6 C) or more above or below the average of 98.6 F. Body temperature can also vary up to 1 F (0.6 C) throughout the day.

Fever is not considered medically significant until body temperature is above 100.4 F (38 C). Anything above normal but below 100.4 F (38 C) is considered a low-grade fever. Fever serves as one of the body's natural defenses against bacteria and viruses which cannot live at a higher temperatures. For that reason, low fevers should normally go untreated, unless accompanied by troubling symptoms.

Also, the body's defense mechanisms seem to work more efficiently at a higher temperature. Fever is just one part of an illness, many times no more important than the presence of other symptoms such as cough, sore throat, sinus congestion, fatigue, joint pains or aches, chills, nausea, etc.

Fevers of 104 F (40 C) or higher may be dangerous and demand immediate home treatment and prompt medical attention, as they can result in delirium and convulsions, particularly in infants and children.

Fever should not be confused with hyperthermia, which is a defect in your body's response to heat (thermoregulation), which can also raise the body temperature. This is usually caused by external sources such as being in a hot environment.

What causes a fever?

Fever is the result of an immune response by your body to a foreign invader. These foreign invaders include viruses, bacteria, fungi, drugs, or other toxins.

These foreign invaders are considered fever-producing substances (called pyrogens), which trigger the body's immune response. Pyrogens tell the hypothalamus to increase the temperature set point in order to help the body fight off the infection.

Fever is a common symptom of most infections, and thus a risk factor for fever is exposure to infectious agents. In children, immunizations (such as flu shots) or teething in may cause low-grade fever. Autoimmune disorders, medication reactions, seizures, or cancers may also cause fevers.

What are the signs and symptoms of a fever?

A fever can cause someone to feel very uncomfortable. Signs and symptoms of a fever include the following:

  • Temperature greater than 100.4 F (38 C) in adults and children
  • Shivering, shaking, chills
  • Aching muscles and joints or other body aches
  • Headache
  • Intermittent sweats or excessive sweating
  • Rapid heart rate and/or palpitations
  • Skin flushing
  • Feeling faint, dizzy, or lightheaded
  • Weakness
  • With very high temperature (> 104 F/40 C), convulsions, hallucination, or confusion is possible. Seek medical attention.

How is a fever diagnosed?

Along with having the generalized symptoms of a fever, taking one's temperature with a thermometer can confirm the diagnosis of a fever. A temperature greater than 100.4 F in adults or children is considered a fever.

How should someone take a temperature for fever?

Digital thermometers can be used to measure rectal, oral, or axillary (under the armpit) temperatures. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend use of mercury thermometers (glass), and they encourage parents to remove mercury thermometers from their households to prevent accidental exposure to this toxin.

Measuring an axillary (under the armpit) temperature for fever

Axillary temperatures are not as accurate as rectal or oral measurements, and these generally measure 1 degree lower than a simultaneously obtained oral temperature.

  • Place the tip of the digital thermometer in a child's armpit.
  • Leave in place about one minute or until one hears a beep to check a digital reading.
Measuring fever by eardrum temperature

Tympanic (ear) thermometers must be placed correctly in a child's ear to be accurate. Too much earwax can cause the reading to be incorrect.

Eardrum temperature measurements are not accurate in small children and should not be used in children under 3 years (36 months) of age. This is especially true in infants below 3 months of age when obtaining an accurate temperature is very important.

Measuring fever by oral temperature

People 4 years old and older can have their temperature taken with a digital thermometer under the tongue with their mouth closed.

  • Clean the thermometer with soapy water or rubbing alcohol and rinse.
  • Turn the thermometer on and place the tip of the thermometer as far back under the tongue as possible.
  • The mouth should remain closed, as an open mouth can cause readings to be inaccurate.
  • The thermometer should remain in place for about one minute or until one hears the beep. Check the digital reading.

Avoid hot or cold drinks within 15 minutes of oral temperature measurement to ensure correct readings.

Measuring fever by rectal temperature

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rectal temperature measurements for children under 3 years of age, as this gives the most accurate reading of core temperature.

  • Clean the thermometer with soapy water or rubbing alcohol and rinse with cool water.
  • Use a small amount of lubricant, such as petroleum jelly, on the end.
  • Place the child or baby prone (belly-side down) on a firm surface, or place a child face up and bend his legs to his chest.
  • After separating the buttocks, insert the thermometer approximately ½ to 1 inch into the rectum. Do not insert it too far.
  • Hold the thermometer in place, loosely keeping one's hand cupped around the child's bottom, and keep one's fingers on the thermometer to avoid it accidently sliding further into the rectum. Keep it there for about one minute, until one hears the beep.
  • Remove the thermometer, and check the digital reading.
  • Label the rectal thermometer so it's not accidentally used in the mouth.

A rectal temperature will read approximately 1 degree higher than a simultaneously obtained oral temperature.

What is the treatment for a fever?

Generally, if the fever does not cause discomfort, the fever itself need not be treated. It is not necessary to awaken an adult or child to treat a fever unless instructed to do so by a doctor.

The following fever-reducing medications may be used at home:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) can be used to lower a fever. The recommended pediatric dose can be suggested by the child's pediatrician. Adults without liver disease or other health problems can take 1,000 mg (two "extra strength" tablets) every six hours or as directed by a physician. The makers of Tylenol state that the maximum recommended dose of acetaminophen per day is 3,000 mg, or six "extra strength" tablets per 24 hours, unless directed by a doctor. Regular strength Tylenol tablets are 325 mg; the recommended dosage for these is two tablets every four to six hours, not to exceed 10 tablets per 24 hours.
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) can also be used to break a fever in patients over 6 months of age. Discuss the best dose with a doctor. For adults, generally 400 mg-600 mg (two to three 200 mg tablets) can be used every six hours.
  • Aspirin should not be used for fever in children or adolescents. Aspirin use in children and adolescents during a viral illness (especially chickenpox and influenza, or flu) has been associated with Reye's syndrome. Reye's syndrome is a dangerous illness that causes prolonged vomiting, confusion, and even coma and liver failure.

Learn more about: Ibuprofen

An individual with a fever should be kept comfortable and not overdressed. Overdressing can cause the temperature to rise further. Tepid water (85 F [30 C]) baths are a home remedy that may help bring down a fever. Never immerse someone in ice water. This is a common misconception. Never sponge a child or an adult with alcohol; the alcohol fumes may be inhaled, causing many problems.

When should someone seek medical care for a fever?

Any child below 3 months of age who has a temperature of 100.4 F (38 C) or greater should be seen by a physician. If a child or adult has a history or diagnosis of cancer, AIDS, or other serious illness, such as heart disease, diabetes, or is taking immunosuppressant drugs, medical care should be sought for a fever.

Otherwise, observe the person with the fever. If he or she appears sick or has symptoms that would suggest a major illness, such as meningitis (headache, stiff neck, confusion, problems staying awake), urinary tract infection (shaking chills, burning with urination), pneumonia (shortness of breath, cough), or any other signs of a serious illness, contact a health-care professional.

Other symptoms that may be indicative of a severe illness include repeated vomiting, severe diarrhea, or skin rashes (that could be a sign of dengue fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, strep throat, or chickenpox).

Fever blisters (herpangina) are small blisters that turn into ulcers, usually on the lips, mouth, or tongue; a virus causes fever blisters. When a child contracts this virus for the first time, the symptoms and the fever blisters can be quite severe. If the child is not eating or drinking, contact a child's doctor.

Women who are pregnant should contact a doctor for a fever over 101 F (38 C). A fever during pregnancy that is accompanied by a rash and joint pain could be a sign of an infection that could affect the baby. Some infections, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), can cause congenital deafness and other problems in the baby.

On the other hand, if the fever accompanies a simple cold or virus, one can treat the fever as described above and be assured that the fever is only a symptom of the illness. This is not to say that someone should ignore a fever. If there are other associated symptoms that are bothersome, contact a doctor.

Some vaccines given in childhood can cause a low-grade fever within a day or two of getting the injection. This fever is usually self-limited and short-lived. If the reaction seems severe or the skin at the injection site is red, hot, and painful, contact the child's doctor.

A low percentage of all children between 18 months to 3 years of age will have a seizure (convulsion) with a high fever. Of those with a history of febrile seizure, some will have another seizure associated with another febrile episode. Febrile seizures, while frightening to the parents, are not associated with long-term nervous-system complications. Children used to be prescribed the antiseizure drug phenobarbital following a febrile seizure as a preventive measure (prophylaxis). This has not been shown to be beneficial and possibly may be harmful, so it is not always recommended.

Learn more about: phenobarbital

What is a fever?

Fever refers to an elevation in body temperature. Technically, any body temperature above the normal oral measurement of 98.6 F (37 C) or the normal rectal temperature of 99 F (37.2 C) is considered to be elevated. However, these are averages, and one's normal body temperature may actually be 1 F (0.6 C) or more above or below the average of 98.6 F. Body temperature can also vary up to 1 F (0.6 C) throughout the day.

Fever is not considered medically significant until body temperature is above 100.4 F (38 C). Anything above normal but below 100.4 F (38 C) is considered a low-grade fever. Fever serves as one of the body's natural defenses against bacteria and viruses which cannot live at a higher temperatures. For that reason, low fevers should normally go untreated, unless accompanied by troubling symptoms.

Also, the body's defense mechanisms seem to work more efficiently at a higher temperature. Fever is just one part of an illness, many times no more important than the presence of other symptoms such as cough, sore throat, sinus congestion, fatigue, joint pains or aches, chills, nausea, etc.

Fevers of 104 F (40 C) or higher may be dangerous and demand immediate home treatment and prompt medical attention, as they can result in delirium and convulsions, particularly in infants and children.

Fever should not be confused with hyperthermia, which is a defect in your body's response to heat (thermoregulation), which can also raise the body temperature. This is usually caused by external sources such as being in a hot environment.

What causes a fever?

Fever is the result of an immune response by your body to a foreign invader. These foreign invaders include viruses, bacteria, fungi, drugs, or other toxins.

These foreign invaders are considered fever-producing substances (called pyrogens), which trigger the body's immune response. Pyrogens tell the hypothalamus to increase the temperature set point in order to help the body fight off the infection.

Fever is a common symptom of most infections, and thus a risk factor for fever is exposure to infectious agents. In children, immunizations (such as flu shots) or teething in may cause low-grade fever. Autoimmune disorders, medication reactions, seizures, or cancers may also cause fevers.

What are the signs and symptoms of a fever?

A fever can cause someone to feel very uncomfortable. Signs and symptoms of a fever include the following:

  • Temperature greater than 100.4 F (38 C) in adults and children
  • Shivering, shaking, chills
  • Aching muscles and joints or other body aches
  • Headache
  • Intermittent sweats or excessive sweating
  • Rapid heart rate and/or palpitations
  • Skin flushing
  • Feeling faint, dizzy, or lightheaded
  • Weakness
  • With very high temperature (> 104 F/40 C), convulsions, hallucination, or confusion is possible. Seek medical attention.

How is a fever diagnosed?

Along with having the generalized symptoms of a fever, taking one's temperature with a thermometer can confirm the diagnosis of a fever. A temperature greater than 100.4 F in adults or children is considered a fever.

How should someone take a temperature for fever?

Digital thermometers can be used to measure rectal, oral, or axillary (under the armpit) temperatures. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend use of mercury thermometers (glass), and they encourage parents to remove mercury thermometers from their households to prevent accidental exposure to this toxin.

Measuring an axillary (under the armpit) temperature for fever

Axillary temperatures are not as accurate as rectal or oral measurements, and these generally measure 1 degree lower than a simultaneously obtained oral temperature.

  • Place the tip of the digital thermometer in a child's armpit.
  • Leave in place about one minute or until one hears a beep to check a digital reading.
Measuring fever by eardrum temperature

Tympanic (ear) thermometers must be placed correctly in a child's ear to be accurate. Too much earwax can cause the reading to be incorrect.

Eardrum temperature measurements are not accurate in small children and should not be used in children under 3 years (36 months) of age. This is especially true in infants below 3 months of age when obtaining an accurate temperature is very important.

Measuring fever by oral temperature

People 4 years old and older can have their temperature taken with a digital thermometer under the tongue with their mouth closed.

  • Clean the thermometer with soapy water or rubbing alcohol and rinse.
  • Turn the thermometer on and place the tip of the thermometer as far back under the tongue as possible.
  • The mouth should remain closed, as an open mouth can cause readings to be inaccurate.
  • The thermometer should remain in place for about one minute or until one hears the beep. Check the digital reading.

Avoid hot or cold drinks within 15 minutes of oral temperature measurement to ensure correct readings.

Measuring fever by rectal temperature

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rectal temperature measurements for children under 3 years of age, as this gives the most accurate reading of core temperature.

  • Clean the thermometer with soapy water or rubbing alcohol and rinse with cool water.
  • Use a small amount of lubricant, such as petroleum jelly, on the end.
  • Place the child or baby prone (belly-side down) on a firm surface, or place a child face up and bend his legs to his chest.
  • After separating the buttocks, insert the thermometer approximately ½ to 1 inch into the rectum. Do not insert it too far.
  • Hold the thermometer in place, loosely keeping one's hand cupped around the child's bottom, and keep one's fingers on the thermometer to avoid it accidently sliding further into the rectum. Keep it there for about one minute, until one hears the beep.
  • Remove the thermometer, and check the digital reading.
  • Label the rectal thermometer so it's not accidentally used in the mouth.

A rectal temperature will read approximately 1 degree higher than a simultaneously obtained oral temperature.

What is the treatment for a fever?

Generally, if the fever does not cause discomfort, the fever itself need not be treated. It is not necessary to awaken an adult or child to treat a fever unless instructed to do so by a doctor.

The following fever-reducing medications may be used at home:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) can be used to lower a fever. The recommended pediatric dose can be suggested by the child's pediatrician. Adults without liver disease or other health problems can take 1,000 mg (two "extra strength" tablets) every six hours or as directed by a physician. The makers of Tylenol state that the maximum recommended dose of acetaminophen per day is 3,000 mg, or six "extra strength" tablets per 24 hours, unless directed by a doctor. Regular strength Tylenol tablets are 325 mg; the recommended dosage for these is two tablets every four to six hours, not to exceed 10 tablets per 24 hours.
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) can also be used to break a fever in patients over 6 months of age. Discuss the best dose with a doctor. For adults, generally 400 mg-600 mg (two to three 200 mg tablets) can be used every six hours.
  • Aspirin should not be used for fever in children or adolescents. Aspirin use in children and adolescents during a viral illness (especially chickenpox and influenza, or flu) has been associated with Reye's syndrome. Reye's syndrome is a dangerous illness that causes prolonged vomiting, confusion, and even coma and liver failure.

Learn more about: Ibuprofen

An individual with a fever should be kept comfortable and not overdressed. Overdressing can cause the temperature to rise further. Tepid water (85 F [30 C]) baths are a home remedy that may help bring down a fever. Never immerse someone in ice water. This is a common misconception. Never sponge a child or an adult with alcohol; the alcohol fumes may be inhaled, causing many problems.

When should someone seek medical care for a fever?

Any child below 3 months of age who has a temperature of 100.4 F (38 C) or greater should be seen by a physician. If a child or adult has a history or diagnosis of cancer, AIDS, or other serious illness, such as heart disease, diabetes, or is taking immunosuppressant drugs, medical care should be sought for a fever.

Otherwise, observe the person with the fever. If he or she appears sick or has symptoms that would suggest a major illness, such as meningitis (headache, stiff neck, confusion, problems staying awake), urinary tract infection (shaking chills, burning with urination), pneumonia (shortness of breath, cough), or any other signs of a serious illness, contact a health-care professional.

Other symptoms that may be indicative of a severe illness include repeated vomiting, severe diarrhea, or skin rashes (that could be a sign of dengue fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, strep throat, or chickenpox).

Fever blisters (herpangina) are small blisters that turn into ulcers, usually on the lips, mouth, or tongue; a virus causes fever blisters. When a child contracts this virus for the first time, the symptoms and the fever blisters can be quite severe. If the child is not eating or drinking, contact a child's doctor.

Women who are pregnant should contact a doctor for a fever over 101 F (38 C). A fever during pregnancy that is accompanied by a rash and joint pain could be a sign of an infection that could affect the baby. Some infections, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), can cause congenital deafness and other problems in the baby.

On the other hand, if the fever accompanies a simple cold or virus, one can treat the fever as described above and be assured that the fever is only a symptom of the illness. This is not to say that someone should ignore a fever. If there are other associated symptoms that are bothersome, contact a doctor.

Some vaccines given in childhood can cause a low-grade fever within a day or two of getting the injection. This fever is usually self-limited and short-lived. If the reaction seems severe or the skin at the injection site is red, hot, and painful, contact the child's doctor.

A low percentage of all children between 18 months to 3 years of age will have a seizure (convulsion) with a high fever. Of those with a history of febrile seizure, some will have another seizure associated with another febrile episode. Febrile seizures, while frightening to the parents, are not associated with long-term nervous-system complications. Children used to be prescribed the antiseizure drug phenobarbital following a febrile seizure as a preventive measure (prophylaxis). This has not been shown to be beneficial and possibly may be harmful, so it is not always recommended.

Learn more about: phenobarbital

Source: http://www.rxlist.com

Fever is the result of an immune response by your body to a foreign invader. These foreign invaders include viruses, bacteria, fungi, drugs, or other toxins.

These foreign invaders are considered fever-producing substances (called pyrogens), which trigger the body's immune response. Pyrogens tell the hypothalamus to increase the temperature set point in order to help the body fight off the infection.

Fever is a common symptom of most infections, and thus a risk factor for fever is exposure to infectious agents. In children, immunizations (such as flu shots) or teething in may cause low-grade fever. Autoimmune disorders, medication reactions, seizures, or cancers may also cause fevers.

Source: http://www.rxlist.com

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