“Oh dear! This baby feels so warm”
“He has been running temperature all day”
“The child’s head felt so hot this afternoon after an episode of vomiting so his teacher sent for his parents”
“She was shivering and complained of feeling cold while everyone else felt warm”
These are common complaints of individuals, parents or caregivers, usually to describe a rise in body temperature above the perceived normal.
A fever, also called pyrexia, is an increase in body temperature. It is a symptom that may point to an underlying ill health. Fever is part of the ways the body protects itself and signals an abnormal process in the body, it is also considered as the body’s way of handling illness and can help with diagnosis of various health conditions. People everywhere use the term commonly, especially when skin-to-skin contact reveals raised body temperature. In adults, fever is most times considered to be a mild symptom by many, whereas in infants and children, it is taken far more seriously amongst parents and caregivers. All age groups, sexes, races and ethnic groups can experience fever, and can occur at any time or place. The normal body temperature is about 370C (98.60F) with a range between 36.10C and 37.20C. However, there may be variations of about 1/20C to 10C(10F – 20 F). Also, body temperature may be generally lower in the morning, rise during the day and reach a peak in the evening. Fever should be considered when the body temperature is greater than 37.50C.
Fever may present in different ways depending on its cause and has been described as chills or shivering, excessive sweating, internal heat amongst others, by some individuals. For healthcare professionals, the pattern/characteristics of the fever alongside presence or absence of other associated factors is a very important pointer to the likely cause of the fever, and so it is important to note and report relevant observations made prior to the person’s presentation in the healthcare facility. Fever can be caused by infections (which may be viral, bacterial, parasitic). For instance, common cold, pneumonia, urinary tract infection, meningitis, malaria, colitis, gastroenteritis, amongst others or non-infectious causes like vasculitis, autoimmune disorders, cancer, heat exhaustion amongst many others. Fever may be low grade or high grade with varying patterns.
Management of fever usually targets the underlying cause and starts with the establishment of the presence of fever. A clinical thermometer is a device that is used to measure the body temperature and it gives useful guide in knowing the extent of the fever. There are several types of thermometers and they can be used in different regions of the body, for example, the oral cavity (mouth), ear, forehead, axilla (armpit) and rectal. Recently, it is increasingly common practice for parents and caregivers to keep thermometers at home, schools and corporate organizations as a component of the first aid box. Oral, ear or rectal temperature readings usually reveal a more accurate core body temperature than axillary measurement, however, proper techniques should be learnt from healthcare professionals before attempting to measure to avoid errors or injury to the affected person. Most times, fever is noticed at outside the health facility and depending on cause may get severe if left without intervention. Just as identifying the presence of fever early is important, early intervention (usually in the form of first aid) is more valuable in preventing complications that could arise from high-grade fever such as dehydration, seizures, brain damage, hallucinations and delirium, kidney failure, amongst others.
While it is very important to seek medical attention immediately after fever is noticed, some first aid measures or home remedies that should be done for a febrile person to relieve the fever before presentation to a health facility include;
Reduce layers of clothing and covering
Loosen tight clothing
Bathe or tepid sponge, using lukewarm water.;Do not use cold water, ice or any other fluids e.g alcohol.
Encourage liberal fluid intake to prevent dehydration.
Only administer medicines that are prescribed by the doctor
Visit the nearest healthcare facility or call your primary care provider for persistent and worsening cases.
The treatment for fever is usually targeted at the underlying cause which varies according to age as fever is a symptom and on its own, often not life threatening. It involves detailed medical history and examination, relevant laboratory investigations and medication where necessary. It is very important to seek urgent medical attention once fever is noticed as it improves outcome.
Health question of the week:
Songs are the pulse of a nation’s heart. A fever, chart of its health – Yip Harburg