Fever is an erratic increase in the temperature beyond the normal baseline range. Generally, fever is part of the immune system in the body which is an alert to the presence of an infection or inflammation.
It is important to note that fever helps the immune system fight off microbes by reducing their capability to replicate. The hypothalamus which is part of the brain that regulates the body temperature causes an increase in the temperature. This is a response to substances called as pyrogens which stimulate the body to retain heat which leads to fever. In some cases, an individual might end up with a condition that causes persistent fever. Once the fever persists for more than a day among infants or 3 days among older children and adults, seek immediate medical care since this can indicate a serious underlying condition. There are various measures to bear in mind when managing persistent fever.
Sponge bath and light clothing
You can reduce the fever by removing excess clothing and provide the child with a sponge bath. It is recommended to use tepid water and the bath should only last for 15-20 minutes without submerging to promote heat evaporation.
Alcohol rubs or ice should not be used since they can lead to shivering which will only increase the temperature. A cooling blanket can be used for hyperpyrexia or abnormal elevation in the temperature which entails rapid cooling to protect the brain.
Increased intake of fluids
Drinking plenty of fluids is vital to avoid dehydration. Fever increases the loss of fluids from the body, thus proper intake of fluid is vital. The indications of dehydration include dry mouth and lips, diminished urine output, dry skin, sunken fontanel and diminished tear production. Proper hydration using water is required for adults while electrolyte-containing rehydration solutions can be given for infants and young children to prevent dehydration.
Medications for fever
There are medications that can be used to manage fever. Antipyretics or fever-reducing medications that reduce fever can be utilized if the increase in the temperature causes discomfort.
The commonly used fever-reducing medications include acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. These medications inhibit the production of an enzyme in the brain that initiates the fever response of the body. Other NSAIDs that can control a case of persistent fever include aspirin and naproxen.
Parents should not use aspirin to control fever since the interaction of aspirin and certain viruses such as the flu can lead to Reye’s syndrome. This is a condition that can lead to brain and liver damage. Other potential side effects of NSAIDs especially if taken in large amounts or for extended periods include liver injury, stomach irritation and kidney issues.
When to seek medical care
It is important to seek medical care for fever that has an unknown origin. Persistent fever requires proper evaluation by a doctor to assess for potentially serious and treatable conditions.
A fever that lasts for more than 3 weeks without any evident source despite initial evaluation is categorized under the fever of unknown origin. The typical causes of a fever of unknown origin include infections, autoimmune conditions and malignancies. The infections that trigger persistent fever include occult abscesses of the pelvis, tuberculosis, osteomyelitis and endocarditis. The malignancies that can lead to persistent fever include lymphomas, leukemia, metastatic cancer, kidney or renal cancer. The fever-generating autoimmune conditions include inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Just make sure that the doctor is aware of all the medications taken by the individual since certain medications can trigger persistent fever.
There are tests and procedures that determine the exact cause of the fever. Immediate medical care of these potential causes is vital to avoid the long-term complications. The assessment for possible causes for persistent fever can be quite extensive and tiring and includes blood tests to determine the response of the immune system to the presence of fever. Other tests include X-rays, MRI and CT scans.