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Fever

A fever is a raise in your body temperature. The body’s normal temperature is around 37°C, however this does vary slightly from person to person, between females and males and according to the time of day and the part of the body at which the temperature was taken.

Typically, any temperature over 38°C is considered to be a fever. The hypothalamus is the part of your brain which contains your thermoregulatory centre. When your hypothalamus resets your temperature to a higher degree then your body thinks that it is cold and must warm up. Thus mechanisms to increase your body temperature to the temperature stipulated by your hypothalamus kick in. These mechanisms include shivering and increasing your heart rate. During this stage of your fever, you will feel cold and will therefore want to warm up, cover yourself with blankets and take other steps to raise your temperature. Once your body has reached the temperature your hypothalamus has set your thermoregulatory system to, you will stop shivering and you will begin to feel warm. When the hypothalamus resets your thermoregulatory centre back to a normal temperature then your body will feel hot and will take measure to reduce its temperature, including perspiration.

Despite the unpleasant symptoms associated with a fever, fevers are actually very useful and beneficial provided they do not exceed 41°C. Certain invading organisms find it more difficult to function under higher temperatures and a fever therefore helps the body fight infection. If you or a loved one have a fever it is important to remain hydrated by maintaining a sufficient fluid intake. It is advisable to avoid large meals which may be difficult to digest when you have a fever. Sponging the face and neck with cool water may sooth the symptoms of a fever. Generally it is best to allow a fever to run its course and allow the body to fight the infection, however if your fever exceeds 40° C, if you begin to convulse, appear dehydrated, confused or delirious, or if your fever has not subsided with in twenty four hours, then please consult your healthcare practitioner.

 

Symptoms

Fever is a body temperature above 37.8°C if measured with a thermometer in the mouth, above 38°C if measured rectally and above 37.5°C if measured under the armpit.

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