Is fever bad !

Fever other wise known as Pyrexia meaning fire in Greek is one of the commonest physical discomfort  driving people to the doctor for help. 

Many of us often express it as a warm sensation, shivering, body pains and  sometimes even a metallic taste in the mouth. All these impressions vary from person to person and do not necessarily mean fever. Doctors will call it fever, not based on the symptoms patients feels , but an objective morning temperature when measured by a thermometer and it should be more than 98.9f and 99.9f after 6pm .

If we can check our temperature, we can take the decision, whether to take the trouble of reaching a doctor. 

Interestingly, even though fever is regarded as a disease by many, it is actually a symptom for an underlying disease. A clear signal from the body, that something is wrong and needs an immediate attention. At the same time, a low grade fever is actually beneficial to the body’s immune response to fight against infections. But be warned,  temperatures more than 41C ( Hyper Pyrexia)  damage the cells  and even cause organ failure.  Hence a high degree of discretion is needed!

Common causes of fever include all infections (viral, bacterial and parasites) . But rarely non infectious reasons like tumors and autoimmune diseases can also be a reason. It is important for us to realise that  fevers due to  virus infections are self limiting  and just need symptomatic relief – meaning a paracetomol tablet which controls body temperature and relieves mild body aches. During this period it is important to maintain adequate hydration and nutrition. Even cold sponging can be attempted during this period but do not use pain relief medications until your doctor advises.

Many don’t realise, but it is only fevers from bacterial infections need antibiotics.  Generally doctors do not prefer to treat for temperatures <100.6f in all age groups. It is not right to start antibiotics with out doctors advice as it might lead to antibiotic resistance making antibiotics less effective for future use.

Generally speaking, one needs to be aware that bedridden elderly and those patients on steroid medication may not show any signs of fever inspite of severe infection and deteoration of general condition. Hence it is necessary for us to have a low threshold to contact our physician in such context.  A high degree of  caution  is needed when pregnant women or patients with underlying heart  disease and those with neurological problems present with fever. Fever in these groups always need to be managed by experienced doctors and self medication is discouraged!

So, if at all you ever have fever, don’t panic! Check your temperature and if temperature is more than 100.6f, start Tab. Paracetamol ( It is available over the counter – No need for prescription and it is an extremely safe drug, often  used even in newborns). The  dose suggested is once every 6 hrs – and never more than 3 gm in a day. (The tablet is usually available as 500 – 650mg dose.)  Even though Ibuprofen (Brufen) is also available as OTC drug and  though it  can also help alleviate fever, it is preferably be taken under a general physician supervision. Elevated body temperatures can easily cause dehydration which can  be easily avoided by simply drinking water!

Doctors do not believe in restricting diet and in-fact having simple easily digestible foods like soups, rasam or butter milk rice is encouraged. It is very important to seek physician attention in case of high grade fevers lasting more than 3 days.  Other warning signs are breathing problems, dizziness, abdominal pain, vomiting, confusion, intense head ache and intractable vomiting. All these indicate serious issues and better be handled by trained experts.

So all fevers are not bad and only few are dangerous. Most fevers in winters are viral and may not need antibiotics. Simple grandmother remedies, plenty of water, and lot of rest with a cup of hot chocolate is all that is needed!  A day or two of rest will do you lot of good and help you get back on your feet fast.

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