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Body's defence mechanisms

What you need to know about Fever

Body's defence mechanisms

What you need to know about Fever

Fever is one of the body's defence mechanisms. When bacteria or viruses get into your body and cause it to malfunction, the body goes on the defensive and your immune system is activated. When this happens, a central nerve in the brain allows the heat generated inside the body to be turned up from the usually constant level. This higher temperature level increases the metabolism and prevents the increase of pathogenic agents.
A person has a fever if their body temperature rises above the normal range of 36 - 37°C (98 - 100°F). It´s a common sign of an infection. As a person’s body temperature increases, they may feel cold until it levels off and stops rising. People describe this symptom as "chills". Eating, exercising, sleeping, the time of day and individual factors can also affect your temperature.
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Fever Symptoms

Fever is a symptom, not an illness. When an infection occurs, the immune system will launch an attack to try to remove the cause. A high body temperature is a normal part of this reaction.
Fever will usually resolve on its own. However, if body temperature rises too high, it may be a symptom of a severe infection that needs medical treatment. Mild fever is part of the immune system’s response to bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. It helps the body fight off infection. Core body temperature varies from person to person. Most experts consider a temperature of 100.4° F (38°C) to be a fever, but in children, this may be lower, at 99.5°F (37.5°C).
When someone has a fever, they may also:
  • shiver and feel cold when nobody else does
  • sweat
  • have a low appetite
  • show signs of dehydration
  • have increased sensitivity to pain
  • lack energy and feel sleepy
  • have difficulty concentrating
If a baby has a fever, they may:
  • feel hot to the touch
  • have flushed cheeks
  • be sweaty or clammy
Mild fever is part of the immune system’s response to bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. It helps the body fight off infection. However, it can be uncomfortable, and a high fever can sometimes lead to complications. For this reason, doctors may sometimes recommend medications called antipyretics to lower a person’s temperature. Examples include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can also reduce a fever. Aspirin can help, but it is not suitable for children, and it may not be suitable for people who take blood thinners.

What to know about a high fever

Hyperpyrexia

Hyperpyrexia is another term for a very high fever. The medical criterion for hyperpyrexia is when someone is running a body temperature of more than 41.1°C (106.1°F). Hyperpyrexia is an emergency that needs immediate attention from a medical professional.
In hyperpyrexia and most other cases of fever, the brain tells the body to raise its baseline temperature above normal. The body responds to the brain’s messages and raises its temperature to a new baseline. This reaction normally happens as a result of an infection or trauma. Hyperpyrexia differs from hyperthermia, a medical term for the uncontrolled rise in body temperature due to excess amounts of body heat generated. In hyperthermia, the brain is not regulating the rise in temperature the way it does with other fevers. Rather, the body cannot handle the heat from environmental causes, and so it overheats. Cases of heat stroke are due to hyperthermia, and not to hyperpyrexia.
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