What is a fever?
A fever is when the body temperature rises- although if it’s below 38 C it’s considered a low-grade fever and is not medically significant.
Fevers over 40 C may be dangerous, so if you suffer from this then it’s important to get medical help.
Why do we develop a fever?
The body responds to an invader (virus or bacteria) by sending signals to the hypothalamus, which raises the body temperature in order to help fight off the infection.
Recent research also suggests that not only does the fever stop the microbes that infect us from replicating, but that the functionality of the immune system may be temporarily enhanced by the higher temperature.
What is the best treatment for fever?
Most people’s natural reaction to a fever is to try to lower their temperature. Maybe as a child you were given calpol to bring your temperature down? But is using medicine to lower the temperature the best thing to do?
In short, the answer is no. As explained, a fever is an important part of the healing process, so by trying to reduce or repress it we are actually impeding our body’s immune response to the infection.
Repeatedly taking medicine for fever can seriously damage the body’s ability to fight off illness, so could lead to more and more problems.
The only time calpol or other medication should be taken for a fever is if it is causing a lot of distress.
Does this mean there’s absolutely nothing to be done for someone with a fever? No- there are certainly ways to make the person feel more comfortable and try to ease their suffering before resorting to medication.
The first thing is to remove clothing and blankets- making sure the person isn’t overdressed. A cold flannel on the forehead and a fan can also give a measure of relief, along with a tepid bath (30 C). It’s important when caring for a child not to go overboard- make sure they don’t become too cold.
It’s also vital to keep hydrated by having plenty of water to drink- this will also help the body to heal quicker. Ice lollies can be soothing and refreshing too- but be sure to avoid caffeinated drinks.
Remember, if the fever is above 40 C, or if it lasts longer than 5 days, seek medical help immediately.