A fever is characterized by a body temperature of 38°C or higher. Usually harmless, a fever is an indicator that your body is fighting off an infection. Typically a mild fever will be accompanied by a cold whereas a higher fever will come with flu, or a more serious bodily infection.
Although the ideal body temperature is 37°C, this is dependent on numerous factors such as;
- The individual’s age and gender (ovulation in females can increase body temperature)
- Which activity they have been doing
- Time of day
- The part of body the temperature was taken from
Causes And Symptoms Of A Fever
Fever is generally caused by certain chemicals being released as the immune system becomes activated in response to a bacterial or viral infection. Sometimes people are susceptible to fever as the side effect of certain drugs, or even as a result of chronic illness.
The rise in temperature is actually a positive symptom as it indicates that the body is fighting the infection for you. A high body temperature can also make it difficult for certain bacteria and viruses to survive and spread in your body. The following symptoms which can accompany a fever are;
- A high body temperature
- Sweating and hot skin
- Increased rate of breathing
Managing A Fever
You cannot cure a fever; however, you can seek relief from the discomfort it brings through the following self-care methods until it subsides.
- Drink plenty of fluids and ensure you get plenty of rest.
- Take some paracetamol in order to reduce your fever and relieve any accompanying pain-related symptoms such as a headache.
- Wear lightweight clothing and avoid using heavy blankets or quilts which could potentially overheat you.
- Keep the room at a comfortable temperature. Either open windows or turn off heating if necessary.
- Avoid taking baths or showers in cool water. This is because the skin reacts to the decrease in temperature by constricting its blood vessels. In turn, this traps body heat. Otherwise, the cold water can cause shivering which also generates heat.
How To Take A Temperature
The easiest way to check and monitor someone’s temperature is to use a digital thermometer. You can take readings from the mouth, an armpit, or the ear. A normal reading from the ear is usually higher than 38°C, whereas from the armpit and mouth a normal reading should be 37°C.
To take a digital reading, reset and then place the silver tip of the thermometer either under the tongue or high in the armpit and leave for two minutes, or until the thermometer beeps. Specialised ear thermometers are also available and can read the temperature from the eardrum. The advantage of an ear thermometer is that the reading can be given within a few seconds, however, may not be entirely accurate.
When To See A Doctor About Your Fever
See your doctor if your fever does not improve within three days, despite home treatment and regular doses of paracetamol and ibuprofen. If you feel that your health is worsening or you are suffering from unusual symptoms such as hallucinations, vomiting, palpitations or muscle spasms, then seek professional medical help.
Medical information published on this website is of a general nature only and not intended to be a substitute for informed healthcare professional advice or clinical care. If you have specific healthcare concerns or issues you should consult with a qualified health care professional such as your own GP.