child with fever and mom checking temperature


What causes it and what to do about it

A fever is defined as an elevated body temperature above the normal range. It can indicate a medical emergency. The normal body temperature varies slightly between individuals, but it is generally considered to be around 98.6°F (37°C) when measured orally. A fever is typically defined as a body temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher in adults. In contrast, in pediatric patients, a fever is often considered to be a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher in infants or a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher when measured orally in older children.

Fever is a natural response of the body to an infection or illness. It is often caused by the release of certain chemicals called pyrogens, which circulate in the bloodstream and affect the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for regulating body temperature. Pyrogens trigger the hypothalamus to increase the body’s temperature set point, leading to fever.

Common causes of fever in adults and pediatric patients include viral or bacterial infections such as the flu, common cold, urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, and gastroenteritis. Other possible causes include inflammatory conditions, autoimmune diseases, certain medications, immunizations, and certain types of cancer.

Fever itself is not a disease but a symptom indicating an underlying condition. This can indicate an emergency. It can accompany other symptoms like chills, sweating, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue. Treatment for fever often focuses on addressing the underlying cause, managing symptoms, and providing comfort measures such as rest, hydration, and over-the-counter fever reducers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. It is essential to seek medical attention if the fever is persistent, very high, or associated with severe symptoms.


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