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What Is A Fever?

What Is A Fever?

Heat is a temporary increase in body temperature that usually occurs as the body's natural response to certain diseases and illnesses. The body raises its core temperature to destroy foreign substances like bacteria and germs that perform best at normal human body temperature. Fevers are most common in children, and children tend to run higher fevers than adults. Because raising one's temperature is an important defense against infection, there are numerous potential causes for fevers.

What Causes a Fever? 

Infections most commonly cause fevers. In fact, almost any type of infection can result in some fever. More severe infections typically cause higher spikes in temperature. Some of the most common infections that are known to cause fevers in children and adults include pneumonia, appendicitis, tuberculosis, skin infections, bone infections, meningitis, influenza, sinus infections, mononucleosis, ear infections, bronchitis, urinary tract infections, bacterial gastroenteritis, or viral gastroenteritis. In children, teething and some immunizations may cause minor fevers. In some cases, other conditions including arthritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, vasculitis, and even some types of cancer can cause fever.

How to Reduce Symptoms

In many cases, mild fevers go away on their own or can be brought down using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines. Lukewarm baths and adequate hydration can also lower a fever. Patients or parents should seek medical attention for high fevers or those that do not go down within a couple of days. Patients should also seek a doctor if other symptoms or conditions are present.

When to see a Doctor

A complete physical examination is usually performed to find the cause of a patient's fever. This usually includes a detailed examination of the skin, ears, nose, throat, and abdomen. Doctors may also be able to determine what is causing a fever based on other symptoms the patient may be experiencing. When a cause cannot be determined, additional testing such as blood studies, chest X-rays, or urinalysis may be necessary. In limited cases, patients may be referred to a specialist when other underlying conditions are suspected.

Treatment Options

In the majority of cases, treating a fever requires treating some infection. This is normally possible through oral antibiotics. Sometimes, however, additional medications or procedures may be necessary. This is especially true in cases of high fevers and high body temperature that is not caused by a common infection. Fevers typically do not cause major complications on their own. Rarely, however, extremely high fevers may result in brain damage or seizures.