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What is Fever? Print E-mail
Written by Phillip LaVeque   
Thursday, 15 October 2009
Fever is a higher-than-normal body temperature. Normal temperature is usually defined as 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or 37 degrees Celsius (C). Many healthcare providers would say a person truly has a fever when their temperature is greater than 99.5 degrees F or 37.5 degrees C.
What is going on in the body?

Normal body temperature changes during the day. Exercise, stress , or dehydration may cause a person's temperature to go up. In these cases, it is not considered a true fever. Fever is a symptom, not a disease. A fever may mean that there is something else going on in the body that is causing it. Fever helps the body fight infections by making the body's defense systems work more efficiently. Bacteria and viruses cannot live at higher temperatures and so are killed by fever.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Fever can be caused by many conditions, including: infections such as strep throat caused by group A strep , pneumonia , flu and chickenpox tissue injuriestumors or cancer diseases that cause inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis medicationsbeing in a hot environment for too long The main risk of mild or moderate fevers is dehydration . People need more fluids than usual when they have a fever. A fever greater than 106 degrees Fahrenheit can result in brain damage and death in some cases. This level of fever is very unusual. It is not usually brought on by common illnesses. Fever in children presents special concerns for parents, since some children have febrile seizures with fever. These can lead to injury to the child, but this is rare.

What are the treatments for the condition?

Treatment is usually directed at whatever is causing the fever. Some steps that can help bring down a fever or comfort a person include the following: Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce a fever. A fever may return after the first dose of medication. These medications should be taken as directed throughout the day. Extra fluids should be taken to help avoid dehydration . Sponging or bathing in lukewarm water can cool the skin and reduce body temperature. Ice water or alcohol sponge baths are no more effective than lukewarm water, so these should not be used. Extra clothing and blankets are not necessary. Bundling a person will only cause the fever to rise. Fevers greater than 106 degrees F are very serious. These high fevers need to be treated in the hospital.
What are the side effects of the treatments?

Aspirin should not be given to children or adolescents. A rare condition called Reye's syndrome , a severe inflammation of the brain and liver, has been linked to aspirin use in young people, especially in cases of the flu and chickenpox.
All medications have side effects, including allergic reactions and stomach upset. Other side effects depend on the medication used.
What happens after treatment for the condition?

What happens after treatment depends on what caused the fever. If the cause of the fever is corrected, the fever generally goes away. Further treatment may not be required.

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