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A fever is a temporary increase in the natural temperature of the body, typically in response to an illness or disease. Normal body temperature changes can occur as a result of menstruation, physical activity, heavy clothing, strong emotion, high room temperature, medications and high levels of humidity. It is when temperature changes occur as a result of illness that the increase becomes more serious. It is important to understand what a fever really means in terms of ones health. Although fevers can be dangerous at high levels, typically above 107 degrees Fahrenheit, it is the root cause for the fever that must be considered. When the body develops a fever, this is an indicator that the body is fighting an illness or infection. This makes being treated by a medical professional extremely important.

Causes, Risk Factors and Complications of Fever

Nearly any type of infection is capable of causing a fever. Some of the most common causes for fevers include pneumonia, bone infections, cellulitis, meningitis, skin infections, appendicitis and tuberculosis. Respiratory infections like flu bugs and colds, urinary tract infections, bacterial and viral gastroenteritis, arthritis, ulcerative colitis, vasculitis, cancer, blood clots, thrombophlebitis and teething may all also cause fevers.

While many fevers are not inherently harmful, they must be monitored closely in order to make sure that they do not cause damage themselves, and that they are not an indicator that something really serious is going on. In most situations someone who has a fever and is listless, dehydrated, not eating enough, has a pale skin color or has a fever that is not responding to treatment should see a medical practitioner. The most common complication from an untreated fever is brain damage, but this does not typically occur unless the fever is higher than 107 degrees Fahrenheit.

Signs, Symptoms and Tests of Fever

Fevers present as any temperature that is above 99 degrees Fahrenheit. While the temperature in the body can rise due to other influences such as heavy clothing or warm temperatures, a significant temperature change can indicate an infection or something more serious going on. A physician will want to do a physical examination, which will likely include a detailed look at the eyes and ears, nose, throat and neck, abdomen, chest and skin in order to look for a definitive cause for the fever. Diagnosing the cause of the fever is always the first step to eradicating it. The physician may also perform additional tests, including a chest X-ray, urinalysis and blood studies to determine the underlying cause for the fever.

Treatment, Drugs and Prevention of Fever

There are two steps to treating the presence of a fever. The first is to treat the fever itself, and the second is to treat the underlying cause for the fever so that it does not return. Medicine can be taken at home to alleviate the fever, including Tylenol or Ibuprofen. Either one or both may be used, but when using both they should be staggered to prevent overdose. The patient should consume plenty of fluids at all time. Prevention of a fever is difficult because it is typically one of the first signs of an illness or infection. When the fever does not respond to medicine, lasts longer than 48 hours or climbs above 104-105 degrees Fahrenheit, consult a physician as soon as possible to determine the root cause.