Fever is when your body temperature rises above its normal level of about 37°C.
It’s a sign your body is fighting some kind of underlying illness, and is often a symptom of infection. Both bacterial and viral infections can cause fever.
While fever symptoms can leave you feeling pretty miserable, a low grade fever is usually no cause for alarm. In fact, a mild fever can be beneficial in fighting off infection.
The good news is that most of the time fever will get better within a few days, and does not require any management.
Fever is a common symptom of bacterial and viral infections. Examples include infections that cause colds and flu, diarrhoea and urinary tract infections.
In addition to high temperature, fever often causes symptoms like sweating, shivering, chattering teeth, headache, flushed skin, aching muscles, dizziness and general weakness.
Sickness isn’t always the reason you get a fever. Fever can also be caused by reactions to medicines or immunisations, or long-term conditions associated with inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Fever is your body’s weapon against infection.
Your body temperature is controlled by a part of your brain called the hypothalamus. It’s like a kind of thermostat - when you’re healthy, the hypothalamus sets your body to a normal temperature of about 37°C.
But when you’re sick with an infection, your immune system releases chemicals that make the hypothalamus reset your body to a higher temperature. You begin to feel cold, and you start to shiver. You bundle up in warm clothing. All of this causes your body temperature to rise to the new higher setting.
This rise in body temperature kills the bacteria and viruses that cause infection. Once these germs are dead, your body temperature returns to normal.
Normal body temperature is about 37°C, although this can vary slightly from person to person, and it may be affected by factors like time of day and the weather.
- 38-39°C is a mildfever
- 40°C or higher is a high fever that requires medical attention
- 42.4°C or higher is a dangerously high fever that needs urgent medical attention.
To help relieve the discomfort of fever:
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink lots of water, to help reduce your temperature and prevent dehydration
- Stick to light foods and avoid tea and coffee
- Stay cool by wearing light clothes and sleeping with light bedclothes.
- Place a cool washcloth against your forehead
- You could take a fever reducing medicine such as Nurofen.
Most fevers are nothing to worry about, and go away within a few days without any special relief. However, if you are in doubt, always consult your healthcare professional.
Seek immediate medical advice if you experience any of the following:
- Temperature 40°C or higher
- Fever that does not improve after three days
- Feeling drowsy or confused
- Symptoms such as hallucinations, vomiting, neck stiffness, skin rash, rapid heartbeat, chills or muscle spasms
- Severe pain anywhere in your body (including severe headache)
- Swelling or inflammation anywhere in your body
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Pain when you urinate or foul-smelling urine
- A severe headache and stiff neck
- A skin rash that does not fade under pressure.
Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health related matters please contact your doctor.
- Better Health Channel. Fever. Available at: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Fever?open Accessed 2 September 2014.
- MedicineNet.com. Fever. Available at: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=361&pf=2 Accessed 2 September 2014.
- Mayo Clinic. Fever. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fever/basics/definition/con-20019229?p=1 Accessed 2 September 2014.
- Patienteducationcentre.org. Harvard Medical School.Fever. Available at: http://www.patienteducationcenter.org/articles/fever/ Accessed 2 September 2014.
- emedicinehealth. Fever in adults. Available at: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/fever_in_adults/page4_em.htm#when_to_seek_medical_care Accessed 2 September 2014.
This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.
Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional.