A fever is the body’s way of fighting off infection. The immune system releases a chemical to take on the infection which raises the body temperature. The normal body temperature is usually between 36-37 degrees Celsius, so most people are considered to have a fever when it goes to 38 and higher, and fevers above 40 degrees Celsius can be especially dangerous. Fevers are pretty common and come a a side effect of all kinds of infections including: colds, the flu, ear infections, UTIs, diseases, tonsillitis, and plenty of other infections.
Once you’ve ruled out any other sicknesses, fighting off a fever becomes a matter of relaxing and keeping cool. As always, drink plenty of clear liquids to keep hydrated and try not to do anything too strenuous. Cold drinks, ice blocks, and other cool foods/drinks may soothe the discomfort of the fever; but do not try to cool a fever by cooling the skin. This can actually make the fever worse by constricting blood flow, trapping body heat inside, or it may cause shivering which will just create more heat. You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen for any pain and to help bring the fever down
You should see a doctor if:
- You are still feverish after three days, despite home treatment.
- Your temperature is over 40°C.
- You are shivering and shaking involuntarily, or your teeth are chattering.
- You are hot, but not sweating.
- You seem to be getting sicker as time goes by.
- You have unusual symptoms such as hallucinations, vomiting, neck stiffness, skin rash, rapid heart rate, chills or muscle spasms.
- You feel confused and drowsy.
- You have a severe headache that doesn’t respond to painkillers.
- You have recently travelled overseas.
- Or if you have:
- A fever with a headache and stiff neck
- A rash that makes it so your skin does not change color when you press against it
For a child, find a doctor if:
- Is aged six months or less
- Has a rash
- Has a fever of 40°C or more
- Is still feverish after a day or so, despite four-hourly doses of baby paracetamol
- Vomits or has persistent diarrhoea
- Refuses food or drink
- Cries inconsolably
- Seems listless, floppy or just looks ill
- Convulses or twitches
- Has trouble breathing
- Is in pain
- If you feel at all worried or concerned at any stage, consult with your doctor.
Doctors can use a variety of methods to sort out what’s causing your fever. Once they have narrowed down the cause, they can treat you properly. Because fevers can be caused by both viral and bacterial infections, antibiotics may not always help to ease a fever; they are effectively useless against viruses.
Fevers are relatively harmless on their own, mostly just uncomfortable; it’s usually the infection that causes them that’s the worst to deal with. But once you begin treating the cause, they’ll go away on their own.
Info: Better Health Victoria: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/fever
Health Direct: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/fever