What to do about a fever

Fever treatments

Do you, or someone you love, have a fever? Firstly, don’t panic, it makes it harder to think clearly and find a solution. Let us comfort you by acknowledging that a fever is distressing (empathy is the first line of defense in healing). The body heats up, the brain feels either compressed or just missing in action, the limbs are heavy, sluggish and refuse to cooperate. We get it.

You’re not alone. But it sure feels like it when you have a fever, mainly because it’s almost impossible to interact with the outside world when incapacitated. Would it help to know what’s going on inside your body during a fevered state? Then read on because we’ve suggested treatments and solutions.

What is a fever?

Most medical experts agree that a “normal” temperature is around 98.6 F. Any temperature over 100.4 F is considered a significant fever, while a rise in temperature that stays below that number is considered a “low-grade” fever.

According to the Mayo Clinic: “A fever is a common sign of illness, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, fevers seem to play a key role in fighting infections.” So you can feel cheered already, it’s a good sign you have a fever – it means your body is getting into action to repel the invaders that made you sick.

Is a fever a disease?

No, it’s not. It’s a symptom that something’s wrong, and a response to this. Medline, the US government’s health advisory service, adds this: “A fever is not a disease. It is usually a sign that your body is trying to fight an illness or infection.”

Essentially a fever kick-starts your immune system into overdrive. That’s why you need plenty of rest. Your body is dealing with whatever caused the fever – it just doesn’t have the bandwidth to cope with anything else you think you need to throw at it.

What causes a fever?

Infections cause most fevers, say our contacts at Medline, but other causes could include: Medicines, including some antibiotics, blood pressure medicines, and anti-seizure medicines; Heat illness; Cancers; Autoimmune diseases; and some immunizations.

For example, one of our researchers at Nano had both a shingles vaccination, and an influenza jab (flu vaccine), on the same day recently. Not only did they get an agonizing arm ache (actually, both arms – OUCH. The shingles vaccine got inserted in the upper left arm, flu vaccine in the right), but had a slight fever for two days. Nothing serious, but it was helpful for them to know that it just meant their immune system was working beautifully, investigating the invasive vaccines and then letting them do their thing. Plus they could feel rather smug knowing they were protected from this year’s nasty flu bugs (hint: get a flu jab).

How do I treat a fever?

No treatment is necessary for a mild fever, but according to Harvard Medical School, if a fever is above 102 F, you should:

  • Drink plenty of water and fruit juices to prevent dehydration (our in-house clinical expert, Dr. Jeff Lambert, recommends that all fluids be ice-cold to help cool your body temp).
  • Eat light foods that are easy to digest.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Take ibuprofen, acetaminophen or aspirin according to label directions.

Dr. Lambert also recommends using cool compresses on your forehead and neck.

When should I call my doctor?

You should seek medical attention if a fever above 102 F lasts more than 2-3 days or is associated with a severe headache, stiff neck, shortness of breath or other significant symptoms that you find concerning.

Further reading.

If you want more information, the American Academy of Family Physicians has detailed fever-related data here.

Hope you feel better soon.