Understanding fever

The standard remedies for a feverish day are a couple of pills and a holiday from work. However, the virus works in several sly ways. Experts suggest that a low grade fever could be potentially dangerous.

Editorial Team
Written by: Editorial TeamUpdated at: Feb 04, 2013 12:20 IST
Understanding fever

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Ways to decipher feverThe standard remedies for a feverish day are a couple of pills and a holiday from work. However, the virus works in several sly ways. The thermometer only shows the temperature, it does not diagnose the fever.


A low-grade fever could be potentially dangerous

Hence, the unsuspecting patient believes that a low grade fever means recovery is a few hours of good rested sleep away. Don’t let it fool you. A low-grade fever could be potentially dangerous, just like a high fever could mean one of several things.


Fever is a symptom of a disease or infection

Firstly, fever is a symptom of a disease or infection. It is not a disease. Fever helps the body fight infections by making the body's defence systems work more efficiently. Bacteria and viruses cannot live at higher temperatures and are killed by fever. If your child has a fever, he will look hot and flushed, though may complain of feeling cold and be shivering.


Symptoms of fever

The symptoms of a fever are dependent on what is causing it. Sometimes a fever can cause a chill. A chill occurs when brain raises the body's "thermostat”, to which the body responds by shivering. Shivering produces heat in the body. Once the temperature goes up, the person often feels warm. When the fever goes away, the person may start to sweat.

Sometimes, though, it is not the fault of any disease. Some drugs, medications, substances or toxins like certain antibiotics or high blood pressure drugs can also be possible causes of fever as a symptom. Therefore, always inform your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.


Fever can be caused by many conditions

High fevers, with temperatures of 103° and above, can signal a potentially dangerous infection. Fever can be caused by many conditions. Some conditions that cause them are: infections such as strep throat, pneumonia, flu and chickenpox, tissue injuries, silicosis, tumours or cancer diseases that cause inflammation or rheumatoid arthritis.

Raised body temperature usually comes with other symptoms. A fever usually means the body has raised its temperature to fight an infection or condition. The most common causes are infectious viruses such as cold or flu. Also possibilities include gastroenteritis, hepatitis, sinusitis, tonsillitis, urinary tract infections, measles, mononucleosis, TB, and drug reactions.

The most common causes of fever in children include cold, flu, throat infection, though there are numerous other possibilities. Less commonly, fever can be caused by extremely serious conditions such as meningitis, meningococcal disease, and others.


Low grade fever can also be serious

Running a fever is not just a symptom of cold. Mild or short-term elevations in body temperature are common with minor infections. However, contrary to popular belief, a temperature does not have to be high to be dangerous. In fact, a low grade fever can be just as serious, especially if it persists for several weeks. Chronic cases of mild fever can indicate various conditions.

Experts explain that a low grade fever can denote something as simple as an infection in the urinary tract, or an illness that is more severe. Lymphomas and other types of cancers can manifest as low grade fevers as well as hepatitis, tuberculosis and reactions to drugs (so-called drug fever). These can often be controlled with medications once the illness is revealed.


Right temperature for toddlers

Toddlers should generally have a temperature of between 97 and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. While 98.6 degrees is the standard for a normal body temperature, some individuals tend to run higher or lower. Activity levels and hot days can also affect temperature. Therefore, anything below 100.4 isn't usually defined as a fever.

However, a low-grade fever can be cause for concern if it doesn't go away. This can be a sign of a dangerous infection or illness that hasn't yet presented other symptoms. You should call your paediatrician if your toddler has a fever of 101 degrees or higher for more than a day. Don't ignore a fever that lasts for days or weeks, even if there are no other symptoms.

Hence, whether it is you or your child, the victims of fever should never be lulled into false comfort with the deceiving thermometer showing 99-100 degrees Fahrenheit – if it goes on for days. A high fever of 105 is no doubt dangerous - at the same time, a low grade fever can be a symptom of worse diseases as well.