Monday, April 18, 2011

Health Care and Fever

Fever can be a sure indicator that something isn't right in your body, and really high fevers can be deadly if not treated immediately by a health care provider. Typically, a fever is the result of an infection somewhere in your body, and the symptoms can be readily seen in most cases. Low grade fevers may just cause you to feel sluggish, lethargic, and just an overall blah feeling. Children experience fevers on a regular basis and should be given care as soon as they exhibit those telltale signs.
 
Fever refers to an elevation in body temperature, according to MedicineNet. Technically, any body temperature above the normal oral measurement of 98.6 F (37 C) or the normal rectal temperature of 99 F (37.2 C) is considered to be elevated. However, these are averages, and one's normal body temperature may actually be 1 F (0.6 C) or more above or below the average of 98.6 F. Body temperature can also vary up to 1 F (0.6 C) throughout the day. Fever is not considered medically significant until body temperature is above 100.4 F (38 C). Anything above normal but below 100.4 F (38 C) is considered a low-grade fever.
 
Fever serves as one of the body's natural defenses against bacteria and viruses which cannot live at a higher temperature. For that reason, low fevers should normally go untreated, unless accompanied by troubling symptoms, according to MedicineNet. Also, the body's defense mechanisms seem to work more efficiently at a higher temperature. Fever is just one part of an illness, many times no more important than the presence of other symptoms such as cough, sore throat, fatigue, joint pains or aches, chills, nausea, etc. Fevers of 104 F (40 C) or higher demand immediate home treatment and subsequent medical attention, as they can result in delirium and convulsions, particularly in infants and children. Fever should not be confused with hyperthermia, which is a defect in your body's response to heat (thermoregulation), which can also raise the body temperature. This is usually caused by external sources such as being in a hot environment.

A simple cold or other viral infection can sometimes cause a high fever (102 - 104 °F, or 38.9 - 40 °C). This does not usually mean you or your child have a serious problem. Some serious infections may cause no fever or even a very low body temperature, especially in infants, according to MedlinePlus. If the fever is mild and you have no other problems, you do not need treatment. Drink fluids and rest. The illness is probably not serious if your child:
•Is still interested in playing.
•Is eating and drinking well.
•Is alert and smiling at you.
•Has a normal skin color.
•Looks well when their temperature comes down.

Take steps to lower a fever if you or your child is uncomfortable, vomiting, dried out (dehydrated), or not sleeping well. Remember, the goal is to lower, not eliminate, the fever, according to MedlinePlus. When trying to lower a fever:
•Do NOT bundle up someone who has the chills.
•Remove excess clothing or blankets. The room should be comfortable, not too hot or cool. Try one layer of lightweight clothing, and one lightweight blanket for sleep. If the room is hot or stuffy, a fan may help.
•A lukewarm bath or sponge bath may help cool someone with a fever. This is especially effective after medication is given -- otherwise the temperature might bounce right back up.
•Do NOT use cold baths, ice, or alcohol rubs. These cool the skin, but often make the situation worse by causing shivering, which raises the core body temperature.

Here are some guidelines, according to MedlinePlus, for taking medicine to lower a fever:
•Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) help reduce fever in children and adults. Sometimes doctors advise you to use both types of medicine.
•Take acetaminophen every 4 - 6 hours. It works by turning down the brain's thermostat.
•Take ibuprofen every 6 - 8 hours. DO NOT use ibuprofen in children younger than 6 months old.
•Aspirin is very effective for treating fever in adults. DO NOT give aspirin to a child unless your child's doctor tells you to.
•Know how much you or your child weighs, and then always check the instructions on the package.
•In children under age 3 months, call your doctor first before giving medicines.

According to MedlinePlus, here are some tips for eating and drinking with a fever:
•Everyone, especially children, should drink plenty of fluids. Water, popsicles, soup, and gelatin are all good choices.
•Do not give too much fruit or apple juice and avoid sports drinks in younger children.
•Although eating foods with a fever is fine, do not force foods.

In some cases, according to MedlinePlus, you should contact your doctor or a health care facility right away in the following situations:
Call a doctor right away if your child:

•Is younger than 3 months old and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 °F (38 °C) or higher.
•Is 3 -12 months old and has a fever of 102.2 °F (39 °C) or higher.
•Is under age 2 and has a fever that lasts longer than 24 - 48 hours.
•Is older and has a fever for longer than 48 - 72 hours.
•Has a fever over 105 °F (40.5 °C), unless it comes down readily with treatment and the person is comfortable.
•Has other symptoms that suggest an illness may need to be treated, such as a sore throat, earache, or cough.
•Has been having fevers come and go for up to a week or more, even if they are not very high.
•Has a serious medical illness, such as a heart problem, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, or cystic fibrosis.
•Recently had an immunization.
•Has a new rash or bruises appear.
•Has pain with urination.
•Has trouble with the immune system (chronic steroid therapy, after a bone marrow or organ transplant, spleen was removed, is HIV-positive, or is being treated for cancer).
•Has recently traveled to a third world country.

Call 911 if you or your child has a fever and:
•Is crying and cannot be calmed down (children).
•Cannot be awakened easily or at all.
•Seems confused.
•Cannot walk.
•Has difficulty breathing, even after their nose is cleared.
•Has blue lips, tongue, or nails.
•Has a very bad headache.
•Has a stiff neck.
•Refuses to move an arm or leg (children).
•Has a seizure.

Call your doctor right away if you are an adult and you:
•Have a fever over 105 °F (40.5 °C), unless it comes down readily with treatment and you are comfortable.
•Have a fever that stays at or keeps rising above 103 °F.
•Have a fever for longer than 48 - 72 hours.
•Have had fevers come and go for up to a week or more, even if they are not very high.
•Have a serious medical illness, such as a heart problem, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, COPD, or other chronic lung problems.
•Have a new rash or bruises appear.
•Have pain with urination.
•Have trouble with your immune system (chronic steroid therapy, after a bone marrow or organ transplant, had spleen removed, HIV-positive, were being treated for cancer).
•Have recently traveled to a third world country.

Children and adults all get fevers. In healthy kids, fevers usually don't indicate anything serious. Although it can be frightening when your child's temperature rises, fever itself causes no harm and can actually be a good thing — it's often the body's way of fighting infections. And not all fevers need to be treated. High fever, however, can make a child uncomfortable and worsen problems such as dehydration, according to KidsHealth.org. All kids get fevers, and in the majority of cases, most are completely back to normal within a few days. For older infants and kids (but not necessarily for infants younger than 3 months), the way they act is far more important than the reading on your thermometer. Everyone gets cranky when they have a fever. This is normal and should be expected. But if you're ever in doubt about what to do or what a fever might mean, or if your child is acting ill in a way that concerns you even if there's no fever, always call your doctor for advice. Lots of great info about this subject can be found at this site: http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/body/fever.html.

In most cases, a fever will come and go without much intervention from a doctor, according to eMedicineHealth.com. If a specific cause is found, then the doctor can prescribe the appropriate medication and treat the illness. Occasionally, a second antibiotic, an antifungal medication, or other drug will be needed. Usually, with the appropriate therapy an infection will resolve and the person will return to normal. In some cases, a fever can be life-threatening. This is often seen in people with poor immune systems, certain types of meningitis, and severe abdominal pain. Pneumonia can be life-threatening in an older person. Any infection in which the source is not found can continue to get worse and become very dangerous. Severe hyperthermia can cause a coma, brain damage, or even death. A lot of info can be found at this site: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/fever_in_adults/article_em.htm.

If you or your child is suffering with fever, take the proper precautions to handle the issue carefully and promptly to reduce the discomfort as quickly as possible. Remember, fevers can be mild or severe. Make sure you know what to do in either situation.

Until next time.

1 comment:

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