Fever: common causes and ways of treatment

Fever is a sign that the body's immune system is fighting pathogens. We reveal causes and how to treat fever.
What is fever?
Fever describes a significantly elevated body temperature from 38 degrees Celsius. However, contrary to what is often thought, fever in itself is not a bad thing - it is a normal protective reaction of the body, which fights pathogens such as viruses and bacteria by heating up. Accompanying the fever are often symptoms such as dry skin and loss of appetite. In many cases, home remedies for fever can lower the high body temperature again, and some medications also have a fever-reducing effect.

Fever - the helper of the immune system
If pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, or fungi enter the body, the immune system is activated. Many different substances are released, including the so-called pyrogens - they send a signal to the brain to increase the temperature of the body by heating it up, thus triggering fever. The same effect occurs, for example, in the case of an existing autoimmune disease or when malignant tumors form. 

How does fever develop?
The body's thermoregulation center is located in the hypothalamus of the brain. When the body heats up, the blood vessels widen and we sweat more. If it is too cold, the blood vessels tighten and we get goosebumps - this is supposed to cause the body to lose less heat. At the same time, the metabolism is boosted and muscle tremors occur. Both are supposed to cause the body to produce more heat.

Also in fever, the blood vessels constrict so that the body does not lose heart, but can use it to heat up. The skin becomes pale and cold, and muscle tremors to chills may occur. If the hypothalamus sends the signal to reduce the fever, the vessels dilate again - the skin becomes warm and reddened and we start to sweat to release the now superfluous heat.

At what point do I have a fever?
Whether someone has an elevated body temperature or actually has a fever is defined. This is how the respective temperature of the body is defined:

Slightly elevated temperature: 37.5 to 38 degrees Celsius.
Slightly elevated fever: 38 to 38.5 degrees Celsius
Moderate fever: 38.6 to 39 degrees Celsius
High fever: 39.1 to 39.9 degrees Celsius
Very high fever: 40 to 40.9 degrees Celsius
Extreme fever: 41 degrees Celsius and higher
Extreme fever is very dangerous - it can permanently damage both organs and tissues. A body temperature above 42.6 degrees is normally considered fatal.

Taking a fever: the right way to do it
The temperature should always be taken at the same time and in the same way to get the most accurate result. The measurement is most accurate when taken rectally. When measured orally, about 0.3 to 05, degrees are added to the result. You can find more information about this in the article Measuring a fever. 

What are the causes of fever?
There can be many different causes of fever. Common triggers are:

Common cold or flu
Other infections, e.g. tonsillitis or blood poisoning
Kidney pelvic inflammation
Purulent abscesses
Connective tissue diseases
Lymph node cancer
Chronic intestinal diseases, e.g. Crohn's disease
Rheumatic diseases, e.g. rheumatoid arthritis

Fever in children
Children are also generally rather a special case: since their immune system is not yet fully developed, even small supposedly harmless infections can trigger a fever in them. These include, for example, respiratory infections caused by colds, gastrointestinal infections, or middle ear infections. Infants are also a special case: in the case of severe infections, they sometimes do not develop a fever at all, which is why parents should pay attention to other signs of illness - for example, listlessness, persistent vomiting, or diarrhea. You can read more about this in the article Fever in children.

What is the course of fever?
Without complications, the fever usually progresses in three phases:

The fever rises to a certain temperature
The temperature reached is maintained
The fever decreases and the body returns to its normal temperature
The process may take only a few hours, depending on the cause, but often it lasts for several days.

Accompanying symptoms of fever
Fever usually does not come alone: in most cases, other symptoms are indicative of the fever. These include:

Shiny eyes
Hot, dry skin
Heavy sweating
Feeling very ill, often with pain (especially aching limbs and headache)
Severe thirst
Rapid breathing
Shivering up to chills
Loss of appetite
Sometimes diarrhea and/or vomiting
Children: whining
When should I see the doctor about a fever?
In uncomplicated cases, where the fever is due to a cold, for example, it usually resolves itself within a few days. If the body temperature is above 39.5 degrees for a longer period of time or if it keeps rising, the doctor should be consulted. A visit to the doctor is also advisable in the following cases:

A very strong feeling of illness
Disturbance of consciousness occurs
The infant has a fever
Children appear seriously ill
In general, children should be treated with increased caution - if the fever lasts longer than one day, if other symptoms occur or if the child is noticeably listless, a prompt visit to the doctor is advisable.

Treatment: What helps against fever?
Fever does not have to be treated in every case, as it is part of the body's defense reaction. However, if it rises to 39 degrees, treatment is advisable. For example, there are fever-reducing medications that can alleviate the additional pain that often occurs. But also home remedies against fever alleviate the symptoms:

Calf compresses: Even our grandmother used calf compresses to reduce fever - because calf compresses to draw the excess heat from the body. To do this, simply wet cotton cloths with cold water, wrap them tightly around the calves, and then wrap two layers of dry cloths around each. After five minutes, the calf wraps are removed and renewed two or three times if necessary. In this way, the fever is slowly reduced. Caution: Calf wraps must not be used in case of shivering.
Drink plenty of water: From a body temperature of 37 degrees, an additional 0.5 to one liter of water per day is recommended for each degree increase (the normal daily amount is about two liters per day). Part of this can also be covered by herbal tea - elderflower tea as well as lime blossom tea, for example, have a fever-reducing effect.
Lukewarm bath: If you want to reduce fever, a lukewarm bath can help. To do this, fill the bathtub with warm water, then gradually add cold water until the temperature is about 25 degrees. After the bath, dry off well, wrap up warmly and put to bed.


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