Description: Fever, also known as pyrexia, or a febrile response, is a medical symptom which describes an increase in internal body temperature to levels which are above normal (37°C, 98.6°F).
Persons most commonly affected: All age groups and both sexes.
Symptoms and indications: Body temperature which is above normal (37°C, 98.6°F).
Causes and risk factors: Fever itself is not an illness, but it is often a sign of one. Far from being an enemy, it is an important part of the body's defense against infection. Many infants and children develop high fevers with minor viral illnesses. While a fever signals to us that a battle might be going on in the body, the fever is fighting for the person, not against.
Most bacteria and viruses that cause infections in people thrive best at 98.6°F. Raising the temperature a few degrees can give your body the winning edge. In addition, a fever activates the body's immune system to make more white blood cells, antibodies, and other infection-fighting agents.
Common causes include viral and bacterial infections, colds or flu-like illnesses, sore throats and strep throat, ear infections, viral gastroenteritis or bacterial gastroenteritis, acute bronchitis, infectious mononucleosis, urinary tract infections, upper respiratory infections (such as tonsillitis, pharyngitis or laryngitis), medications (such as antibiotics, antihistamines, barbiturates, and drugs for high blood pressure). Occasionally, more serious problems like pneumonia, appendicitis, tuberculosis, and meningitis. Fever can occur in infants who are overdressed in hot weather or a hot environment. Collagen vascular disease, rheumatoid diseases, and autoimmune disorders, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, periarteritis nodosa, AIDS and HIV infection, inflammatory bowel disease, regional enteritis, ucerative colitis, cancer, leukemia, neuroblastoma, Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are also some causes of fever.
Prevention: A popular household remedy is soaking a cloth in cold water and placing it on the patient's forehead. If the fever is mild and no other problems are present, no medical treatment is required. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration (because the body loses more water with a fever) and get enough rest. If a child is playful and comfortable, drinking plenty of fluids, and able to sleep, fever treatment is not likely to help.
Take steps to lower a fever if you or your child is uncomfortable, vomiting, dehydrated, or having difficulty sleeping. The goal is to lower, not eliminate, the fever. When trying to reduce a fever DO NOT bundle up someone who has the chills. Remove excess clothing or blankets. The environment should be comfortably cool. For example, one layer of lightweight clothing, and one lightweight blanket to sleep. If the room is hot or stuffy, a fan may help. A lukewarm bath or sponge bath may help cool someone with a fever. This is especially effective after medication is given -- otherwise the temperature might bounce right back up. DO NOT use cold baths or alcohol rubs. These cool the skin, but often make the situation worse by causing shivering, which raises the core body temperature. Drink cool liquids, as tolerated. Eat lightly. Steamed vegetables, soups, broths, and herbal teas will let your bosy focus on healing, instead of on digestion. Avoid milk and other dairy products while you are sick, as they tend to suppress immunity.