What is a Fever?
A fever is a term used to describe a body temperature that is higher than the standard 37 degrees Celsius.On its own, a fever is usually not an illness but rather an indication of an infection or another disease that unlike the fever itself may require immediate medical attention. Typically, a standard body temperature is around 37 degrees Celsius. However, the standard body temperature may vary from one person to another. What is considered as normal body temperature also varies depending on the time of day, a person’s level of exercising and season of the year.
Fevers are quite common in infants and children as such persons are more susceptible to various infections due to their weak immune systems. However, fevers also occur in adults. Interesting to know is that, having a fever is often beneficial as such aids the body in fighting off infections. And usually, many fevers are not dangerous thus treating them is only required for comfort reasons.
How to Measure Body Temperature
There are three types of thermometers that you can use to measure your child’s temperature including the axillary, oral and rectal thermometers.
- Oral thermometers are usually placed under the tongue for about three minutes to capture the body temperature.
- The rectal thermometers are inserted slightly into a baby’s rectum to measure the temperature. It is advisable to apply a small amount of petroleum jelly onto the bulb of the thermometer before using a rectal thermometer. This reduces discomfort for the baby.
- The axillary is the most common type of thermometer. This is the kind that is placed in the armpit. To read temperature, you need to hold or cross the arm of the child over the thermometer for a few minutes (5 minutes)
Various conditions can lead to a fever including:
- Teething in infants
- Infections like common cold, flu, and pneumonia
- Some immunizations like tetanus and diphtheria
- Food poisoning
- Some antibiotics
- Extreme sunburn
- Blood clots
- Some inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s disease
It is essential to determine the cause of the fever as such will help in determining the best medical step to take. A fever may also be accompanied by other symptoms which vary depending on the cause. Depending on the cause, other additional symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- General weakness
- Muscle aches
When to Call The Doctor
As mentioned earlier, the conditions under which a person is considered to have a fever vary from one person to another. An infant, for instance, is said to have a fever if her body temperature is 38 degrees Celsius or above. A child will have a fever if her body temperature is anything above 37.5 degrees Celsius while an adult with anything from 37.2 will be said to have a fever. Although a fever usually goes away on its own, it is always prudent to seek medical attention.
You should call your doctor immediately if your child:
- has a fever
- is restless and has no or poor eye contact
- has a fever for more than three days
- is irritable, listless and vomits,
- has a headache, stomach or any other symptom that causes discomfort
- has recently been in high-risk areas like rural areas with high malaria prevalence
- has been recently immunized
- has throat swelling
- has abdominal pain
- becomes sensitive to light
- has stiff and painful neck
- has muscle weakness
- is drowsy
- has a seizure or convulses.
If an adult has fever, seek medical attention when you have:
- seizures or convulsions
- persistent vomiting
- becomes unusually sensitive to light
- has mental confusion
- has difficulties in breathing
- has chest pain
- experiences neck pain or neck becomes stiff
- develops a skin rash that worsens rapidly
- has a severe headache
How to Prevent or Reduce Fever Occurrences
It is possible to avoid fevers especially those that occur due to infections by maintaining a few basic hygienic practices including;
- Washing hands before eating, after visiting the toilet, after changing the baby, after petting, before handling food, after being around someone that is sick, after traveling, etc.
- Avoid touching parts of your body like eyes, nose or mouth. Bacteria and viruses usually enter the body through these areas.
- Teach your children to wash hands properly with soap and water covering both the back and front of the hand and rinsing thoroughly under running water.
- Always have a hand sanitizer for use at times you cannot access water and soap.
- Avoid sharing of water bottles, utensils, and cups especially with children
- Teach your children to cover their mouths when coughing and noses when sneezing. This practice will help prevent the spread of germs that cause infections like flu and common colds.
Also, ensure to teach your children to above essential hygienic practices. A fever is almost not dangerous. However, it is usually an indication that your body is suffering an illness which may require medical attention. Therefore, it is always useful to consult your doctor when you or your child has a fever just to be on the safe side.