Fever: how to cool down when you heat up
Fever in adults
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 a fever.
While fever symptoms can leave you feeling pretty miserable, a low-grade fever is usually no cause for alarm.
The good news is that most of the time a fever usually will get better within a few days.
Fever symptoms are usually the result of a bacterial or viral infection
Fever is a common symptom of bacterial and viral infections e.g., for colds and flu and urinary tract infections.
In addition to high temperature, fever often causes symptoms like sweating, shivering, headache, flushed skin, aching muscles and general weakness.
An infection isn’t always the reason you get a fever. Fever can also be caused by reactions to medicines or immunisations.
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 to the new higher setting.
This rise in body temperature helps to fight off the bacteria and viruses that cause infection.
When is a high temperature too high?
Normal body temperature is between 36 - 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.
In general, above 37°C can be a high temperature and you may experience symptoms of a fever.
There are practical ways to reduce a fever
To help relieve the discomfort of fever:
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink lots of water
- Stay cool by wearing light clothes and sleeping with light bedclothes.
Signs you should see a Doctor
Most fevers are nothing to worry about and usually go away within a few days.
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.
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