Fever: how to cool down when you heat up
The normal body temperature is generally around 37°C, although this can vary slightly from person to person, and it may be affected by factors like time of day, the weather, running around or wearing warm clothing. Fever is when your body temperature rises above 38°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. Most of the time fever will get better within a few days, and often can be managed at home.
Fever is a common symptom of a bacterial or viral infection
Fever is a common symptom of bacterial and viral infections. Examples include infections that cause colds and flu.
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 certain medical conditions.
How fever fights infection
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.
This rise in body temperature helps your body fight the bacteria or viruses that are causing the infection.
There are practical ways to reduce a fever
To help relieve the discomfort of fever:
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink lots of water, to stay well hydrated
- Stay cool by wearing light clothes and sleeping with light bedclothes
- Keep the room at a comfortable temperature
- You could take a fever reducing medicine such as Nurofen
Signs you should see a doctor
Seek urgent medical attention:
- Children under 3 months of age with a fever
- A person of any age with a fever, headache and stiff neck, or has rash that doesn’t blanche (fade) when pressed
- A person of any age with a fever who also experiences unexpected or unusual symptoms like hallucinations, muscle spasms or feels confused or drowsy.
See a doctor:
Children over 3 months of age, including adults who experience:
- trouble breathing
- refusing to drink and/or not urinating as often
- stiff neck
- sensitivity to light
- ongoing vomiting or diarrhoea
- looking sicker than before – more pale, lethargic or weak
- any other symptoms that are causing you worry.
Or if you or someone you are caring for:
- still has a fever after three days
- are shivering or shaking uncontrollably
- are hot but not sweating
- are getting sicker instead of feeling better
- have recently travelled overseas.
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.
This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice.
Better Health Channel. Fever. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/fever
Accessed 2 September 2014.MedicineNet.com. Fever. Available at: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=361&pf=2 Accessed 2 September 2014.
Mayo Clinic. Fever. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fever/basics/definition/con-20019229?p=1 Accessed 2 September 2014.
Patienteducationcentre.org. Harvard Medical School.Fever. Accessed 2 September 2014.
Emedicinehealth. Fever in adults. Available at: https://www.emedicinehealth.com/fever_in_adults/page4_em.htm#when_to_seek_medical_care Accessed 2 September 2014.