If the body temperature is elevated, colds and flu are usually blamed. But when do you have a fever, how do you bring it down, and how do you deal with fever in children?
Oh wow, already a whopping 40 degrees! Should I pull the emergency brake and lower the fever with the pill? Or let the crazy heat rage inside me?
Many parents and adults are unsure – and even experts disagree. Naturopaths see fever as a natural confrontation between the body and the “foreign” bacteria or viruses.
It strengthens the learning effects of the child’s immune system and optimizes the healing of infections or chronic diseases in older children.
Conventional doctors also see fever as a weapon of the body but tend to free it from the debilitating struggle.
What Is Fever
If pathogens enter the body and parts of them reach the temperature control center in the brain via the blood, this sets the setpoint higher – similar to a thermostat.
To achieve this, the liver first produces more heat. If this is not enough, shivering (first shivering, then chills) is triggered, and sweating is reduced. The heat generated in the liver and muscles is distributed throughout the body via the blood.
Once the increased temperature is reached, the additional heat production stops, and the feeling of cold subsides.
With every degree of increase in temperature, metabolism and the activity of the immune system increase. For example, the number of white blood cells – those scavenger cells that turn off the invaders – increases.
At the same time, their proliferation is inhibited. So there are good reasons not to reduce fever immediately. For the increased defense to succeed, the increased temperature often only drops after days: The temperature setpoint is reduced to normal, which is noticeable through increased sweating.
Causes Of Fever
The most common symptom associated with flu and colds is fever. The body begins to defend itself against the incoming pathogens.
In addition, if the typical accompanying symptoms of cold and flu are absent, fever can also be a sign of many other illnesses.
Infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, tonsillitis, measles or blood poisoning, appendicitis, kidney infection, or heart valve inflammation.
But rheumatic diseases such as Bechterew’s or Crohn’s disease or connective tissue diseases and vascular inflammation can also be accompanied by fever.
Necessary: If the fever lasts longer than three weeks, but the causes are unknown, it is referred to in technical jargon as a fever of unclear origin.
When Do You Have A Fever?
One does not always speak of fever immediately when the face is glowing, and the body is exhausted.
If the measured body temperature is below 38 °C, one speaks of elevated temperature; if the clinical thermometer shows more, one has a fever.
Typical accompanying symptoms are dry and hot skin, chills, shiny eyes, loss of appetite, increased respiratory rate, confusion, hallucinations, etc.
Fever: When Is It Dangerous?
As soon as you feel cold, i.e., when the temperature starts to rise, you should stay in bed and keep warm so that the body can fully concentrate on its defenses.
Adults should see a doctor if they have a fever that lasts more than two to three days or recurs.
When Should You Bring Down A Fever?
“If you have the flu or a common flu-like infection, you can tolerate a fever of up to 39 degrees Celsius for three days, and in younger adults and children, if they are not prone to febrile seizures, you can also tolerate 1-2 days up to 39.9 degrees Celsius,” explains Dr. Martin Adler, a specialist in general medicine and naturopathy.
“Older people, the weak or the chronically ill, on the other hand, should better consult a doctor,” adds Adler.
This also applies if the fever lasts longer than three days or if symptoms such as headaches with a stiff neck, abdominal pain, pale skin, difficult breathing, and drowsiness co-occur.
Fever In Children
Children often have a fever, which can quickly become very high – temperatures of up to 39°C are not uncommon. The following applies to infants up to three months: If the body temperature is 38°C or more, consult a pediatrician to be on the safe side.
A doctor should check out infants under the age of two if they have a fever for more than a day. From two years of age, older children should be examined by a pediatrician if they have a fever of 39°C or more or if they have a fever that lasts longer than three days or occurs repeatedly.
In principle, (small) children should only be given medication (in the form of suppositories, drops, juices or tablets) when they are suffering greatly from the fever and appear exhausted – and if possible, only when their body temperature is more than 39°C.
Parents should note that the rectal measurement, i.e., via the buttocks, provides the most accurate values when measuring fever. Alternatively, the temperature can also be measured with a unique ear thermometer.
Taking measurements in the mouth is only recommended for children over the age of five, as otherwise, there is a risk that they will bite the tip of the thermometer under their tongue.
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Home Remedies For Fever
When you’ve caught a fever, the best thing you can do is rest, drink tea, and sweat (but please only on the sofa, a visit to the sauna would unnecessarily strain the weakened organism). And here are a few more tips:
The body should be stressed as little as possible; sport is now absolutely taboo.
Various types of tea, including lime blossom tea, have a diaphoretic effect that lowers body temperature.
Application: Pour one to two teaspoons of linden blossom with 250 ml of boiling water and let it steep for five to ten minutes. You can sweeten the tea with honey to taste and drink it warm in small sips. Drink a cup three to five times a day.
Elderflower, willow bark, or meadowsweet tea is also said to have a sweat-inducing effect. Overall, if you have a fever, you should drink as much as possible. The minimum is two liters a day. Mineral water or herbal teas are best.
In addition, lukewarm calf wraps can help reduce fever but should only be used if the patient does not suffer from cold feet or chills.
Cloths soaked in lukewarm water (not cold water!) are wrapped around the lower legs. The clothes give off evaporative cooling on the warm skin, which cools the body down again slightly – similar to what happens when you sweat. The wraps on the legs are designed to control body temperature and help the body cool down when it’s overheated.
Medication For Fever
If you have a fever, your body fights viruses or bacteria and fights off pathogens. It’s pretty exhausting, which is why we feel so weak when we have a fever.
But when we push ourselves with fever-reducing drugs, we practically ignore our body’s warning signals. The result: when the effect of the tablet wears off, we feel all the flatter – which can delay healing.
Antipyretics only treat symptoms, not the cause of the fever. We should therefore give our body a break before we intervene.
The following applies to chronically ill people: fever is very stressful, especially for heart and kidney patients. To protect the circulation, you should take antipyretic measures from 38.5 degrees.
Antipyretics can also be administered if the patient feels very ill. In addition to paracetamol, ibuprofen has also proven itself as a remedy for fever.
Sport With Fever – Better To Take A Break?
If you have a fever, you should stop any physical activity immediately. Bed rest is the order of the day!
Anyone who takes the medication will feel better quickly, but believing that you can start again right away is a dangerous fallacy: painkillers and fever medication only relieve the symptoms. The disease is still acute, and the organism is weakened.
In the case of a “real” virus-triggered flu (influenza), the sports question is unnecessary anyway:
High fever up to 40 degrees Celsius, chills, severe muscle, and joint pain, accompanied by extreme exhaustion distinguish the flu from a simple cold – and force those affected to bed rest.
Bacterial infections, such as paranasal sinuses or even pneumonia, often occur in this weakened state.
On the other hand, if you are taking antibiotics, it is advisable to refrain from exercising for the entire duration. After that, the doctor should decide when sport can be resumed.