Causes Of Fever

Fever is part of our bodies' defense mechanism. When we are fighting an infection, our body temperature rises, but why? Read on to find out the answer to this and more about fever.

Fever is a rise in our body's normal temperature, which, on average, is 98.6 degrees Farenheit. Fever is part of our body's defense mechanism. When our bodies are fighting infections, our body temperature rises. But why? Fever is a symptom of an infection. Fever is a symptom of almost every disease known to man. Illnesses caused by viruses and bacteria invade our bodies and make us sick. Without our immune system to fight off these infections, we could die. Colds, tonsillitis, otitis media, the flu, bronchitis, tetanus, measles, mumps, chicken pox, AIDS, pneumonia are all examples of bacterial and viral infections. Temperature is usually measured in the mouth by a thermometer being held under the tongue for 5 to 8 minutes. Other ways to measure body temperature include rectally, axillary (armpit), and using a special temperature taking device in the ear.

Fever is a good thing. Does that sound like an odd statement? Fever is our body's natural response to fighting germs. Symptoms of a fever include: chills, aching everywhere, listlessness, elevated body temperature on the thermometer, red cheeks, and feeling hot or cold, shaking. The body basically shivers and has chills when the fever is rising, especially rapidly and sweats when the fever is dropping, or breaking, as some say.

The cause of the fever is quite an intricate process. Our blood and lymphatic systems produce white blood cells which are what fight off infection. As our white blood cells increase in number, like an army to fight the germs, they go faster and faster attacking the germs, this causes our bodies to heat up, thus causing the fever or rise in body temperature. The hypothalamus in the brain, which is the body's heat regulating mechanism is affected by the pyrogens, or the white blood cells that are produced to fight the infection. So, in effect, we can say that the fever is what is fighting the infection. That is why it is not good to try to bring down a fever too much or too fast. A temperature of 100 to 101 degrees Farenheit is good for the body because it shows that the body is fighting the infection. However, if a fever goes too high, measures must be taken to bring the fever down a bit. Antipyretics are medications that lower fever, such as tylenol, aspirin and so on. Never give a child aspirin products if it is believed they have chicken pox or the flu. This could lead to a condition called Reye's Syndrome that is potentially fatal.

When a fever is 104 or 105 degrees this is very high. Above 105 degrees, damage can occur in the nervous system. Also, seizures can occur above 102 degrees in some people, usually children. When you have a fever, even though the fever is working to help you, it still makes you feel awful. Some comfort measures for someone with a fever include fever-reducing medications, cool wet rag on the head, cover in light blanket (heavy blankets actually trap the heat), avoid taking hot baths, this will only increase your temperature, drink plenty of fluids, especially clear cool liquids such as water and fruit juice to prevent dehydration, if the fever is high, you may give a light sponge bath using tepid water only, not cool or cold water, and no alcohol! Keep the person covered with a towel as not to get a chill. An infant or small child with a high fever can dehydrate very quickly, especially if they are losing fluids some other way, as well, such as diarrhea or vomiting. If they are not vomiting, give them as much liquid as they can tolerate to prevent dehydration. There are specially formulated liquids on the market for replenishing the body and maintaining electrolyte balance. If the child is vomiting, antipyretics (fever reducing medications) can be given in suppository form, rectally. Make sure of proper installation and proper dosage. There are also prescription suppository medications for vomiting. Once the child stops vomiting, attempt to give fluids orally, in small sips and portions so as not to cause vomiting again. This is an attempt to prevent dehydration. Signs of dehydration include, dry skin, decreased urination, flacid skin (meaing it is loose and not taut), and listlessness (even when the fever goes down). Seek medical attention if your child appears dehydrated as this can be life threatening.

Other conditions that involve fever include inflammations such as arthritis, leukemia, where the body produces defective and useless white blood cells that cause fever but cannot fight infection, and in heat stroke, where the body's heat regulating mechanism no longer functions properly, due to overexposure to the sun. The body cannot bring down the temperature nor sweat. This is a potentially life threatening situation that requires emergency first aid and immediate means of bringing down the temperature such as, dousing the person in cool water, giving cool liquids to drink, applying ice packs axillary and groin areas, and moving ther person out of heat and sun to a cool place.

Always have a doctor evaluate a patient with fever.

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