What is high fever? How dangerous is high fever for an individual?
Fever also referred to as high fever or high body temperature is not an illness but a symptom of an underlying health condition such as an infection, in most cases. It is a body’s natural defense against infection and is generally not considered dangerous, though a very high body temperature can cause severe complications since it could also indicate a problem such as a heat stroke, side-effects of medicines, drug abuse and stroke. However, high fever is also not always worrisome, if it is given adequate medical treatment. Sometimes, high fever may not be associated with any such causes and can easily be treated with some medications.
However, the effect and severity of the impact of fever is also dependent on the age, physical condition and the underlying cause of fever. For elder people, even mild fever might require attentive medical care and for children, if fever is accompanied with symptoms such as poor appetite, sore throat, crankiness, cough, and pain in the ear, etc. – consultation of a doctor is needed. While for normal, otherwise healthy individuals, fever and high fever, many times, can be easily treated with medications and rest.
A person is said to have a fever when the body temperature of the person crosses the normal range of 98–100° F. When the body temperature rises, a person might feel cold till it stops rising or decreases. This is the normal range and fever within this range is considered mild and can be easily treated with only rest sometimes since it enables the body to neutralize the bacterium or virus causing the fever.
However, in cases where the fever or body temperature crosses 100.4° F, the fever is no longer mild and should be monitored every hour and given attentive medical care. More so, if the temperature crosses further degrees, the severity of fever increases. These are ranges for temperature checked via thermometer placed in the mouth.
Types/Severity of Fever
A fever can be categorized as low or high depending on body temperature, such as:
- Low: 100.5–102.1°F
- Moderate: 102.2–104.0°F
- High: 104.1–106.0°F
- Hyperpyrexia: 106.0°F
Moreover, fever can also be categorized per the duration such as:
- Acute: less than 7 days
- Sub-acute: Up to 14 days
- Chronic or persistent: More than 14 days
Symptoms of Fever and High Fever
A person having fever or high fever will experience all or any of the following symptoms, such as:
- Feeling excessive cold
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of energy
- Heightened sensitivity to pain
- Concentration problems
- Feeling lethargic
- Feeling sleepy
- Sweating excessively
When the fever is very high, a person will experience additional symptoms including:
- Severe irritability
- Lack of consciousness
- Intense headache
- Rapid heart rate or palpitations
- Muscle ache
A high fever condition can take a serious turn, if not given medical treatment timely.
Causes of Fever
Fever is caused when the part of the brain called the hypothalamus that controls the body temperature, resets the temperature of the body to a higher level in response to an infection, illness or any other cause.
Fever or high fever can be caused due to several reasons such as:
- An infection such as pneumonia, strep throat, etc.
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Certain medications
- Amphetamine abuse
- Symptom of alcohol withdrawal
- Overexposure of the skin to the sunlight
- Ear infection
- Other infection such as skin, bladder or kidney
- Blood clots
- Hormone disorders
- Autoimmune diseases
- Food poisoning
Treatment of Fever
Most fevers are mild and tend to lower down with some simple steps such as taking rest and drinking a lot of water. However, when mild fever is accompanied by mild symptoms, including dehydration and discomfort, few steps such as below can help:
- Comfortable room temperature
- Sponge bath or regular bath to lower the temperature
- Taking over-the-counter medicine
- Drinking a lot of fluids
Further, immediate medical help should be taken in the below conditions:
- If the child is 3 months or younger and has a high rectal fever of 100.4 °F
- If the child is between 3 to 12 months and has an oral temperature of 102°F
- If the child is 2 years or younger and has a fever that has lasted for more than 24-48 hours.
- Adults when they have a body temperature of 104 °F for more than 48 hours or when they have a high fever with 105 °F temperature.
- Adults who have a compromised immune system
Moreover, if fever (mild or high) is accompanied by any of the below symptoms, immediate medical help should be called for:
- Severe headache
- Swelling in the throat
- A skin rash
- Sensitivity to light
- Weakness in muscles
- Breathing problem
- Chest pain
- Stiffness and pain in the neck
- Pain while urinating
In all, mild fever is no reason for worry and can easily be cured. However, high fever at a temperature of 104 °F above can be dangerous and must be given immediate medical treatment.