My wife would not be impressed to hear that if given the choice between watching the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever and developing an actual fever, I would need some time to weigh up the choices. Neither of them are particularly appetising. But in the end, I would choose to watch the film, even though disco music makes me break out in hives.
As it turns out, actual fevers can be really bad news. Today, I am going to take you for a journey into the fever, what it means, and how you can get on the front foot.
What is a fever?
A fever is actually the body attempting to fight off an infection by raising its internal temperature to kill the foreign body. Imagine you have an unwanted guest, and so you crank up the fireplace, so that they become so uncomfortable they end up leaving. Same principle here (FYI, if the fireplace trick doesn’t work, try putting on Saturday Night Fever - that bad boy can clear a room in seconds). You will probably experience a range of symptoms as your body mounts its defence: sweats, achiness, headaches, fatigue, weakness, even coughs and sore throats.
How do I know if I have a fever?
The best way to tell is to take your temperature. In fact, you will often find that most Australians use the term ‘temperature’ interchangeably. A normal internal body temperature is somewhere between 36 and 37 degrees. If you are above 37, you have developed some kind of fever. If you are into the 39 degree territory, or if the fever has lasted for three days, you need to seek medical intervention. Otherwise, it can usually be managed at home.
Now, how you choose to actually get this temperature? That comes down to your philosophy: how much do you sacrifice comfort and dignity for accuracy?
- Most accurate, least comfortable: Taking a temperature rectally is the most accurate way to get a reading of your body temperature. It is internal and there are fewer variables or ways to get the reading wrong.
- Least accurate, semi comfortable: Placing a thermometer under the armpit. It tends to return lower readings than other methods, and depending on whether your skin was hot or cold at the time of measurement, it can vary fairly significantly
- Pretty accurate, pretty comfortable: Using a Braun thermoscan to measure your body’s temperature through the ear seems to be the best balance of accuracy and comfort. The only way to return an inaccurate result with a Braun thermoscan is if you don’t position it properly against the ear, if the ear is wet, if you’ve been lying on the ear (which pools blood and lifts the temperature, or if there is a build up of ear-wax. Other than that, you are good to go! I’ve been using a Braun thermoscan for years, and it has always served me well.
What do I do to treat a fever?
- Rest. Your body is doing a lot of work fighting off whatever has infiltrated your body. You can help out by not over exerting yourself. Your body only has so much energy, and if you decide to run a half marathon, you are diverting that away from where it needs to be.
- Keep up your fluids. Being sick causes you to lose more fluids than you realise. You’re sweating, coughing, blowing your nose. Each time, you lose liquid in your body. Keeping up the fluids replenishes your water stores. Becoming dehydrated also causes your blood pressure to drop, which prevents blood from flowing to the areas which need it to fight off the infection
- Up the painkillers. Taking paracetamol and Ibuprofen can help to reduce the inflammation that is causing you to feel so rubbish. These can be taken at the same time, but remember to read the instructions carefully. If you were to take Ibuprofen without food, it can cause stomach ulcers which is just not what you need when you’re already feeling a bit under the weather
- Cut coffee, alcohol as these contribute to dehydration
What can a fever mean?
Look, in most instances it means very little. You have just picked up a little infection which is ruining your day(s). It typically goes away after a day or so, and you never need to give it a second thought. But if you turn to your friend Doctor Google, you might decide that you are at death’s door. Yes, in some instances a fever can be a symptom of a more serious health problem. I am going to track through some of them, but I want to stress that these should only be diagnosed by a health professional, not you at 3am when you’re not thinking straight anyway.
- Influenza - We are shaping up to have one heck of a flu season in Australia this winter. If you develop a very sudden fever, which is accompanied by a hacking cough, sore throat etc, you might have picked up the influenza infection. Wanna head this off at the pass? Get a flu shot and save yourself the pain.
- Bronchitis - This is when the tubes which carry air sound your lungs (bronchioles) become inflamed and produce way too much mucus. This results in a fever and flu-like symptoms for up to two weeks. It usually isn’t life threatening, but seeking medical advice will undoubtedly reduce the time and intensity of your infection
- Glandular fever - I picked up Glange just as I was finishing my Year 12 exams. I would not recommend. Given that it is highly contagious, it is worth seeking medical advice ASAP.
- Urinary Tract Infection - Given that the word ‘infection’ is in the title, it shouldn’t surprise us that this can cause a fever. As it is incredibly painful, do not wait to seek medical assistance.
I hope this has shed some light on how to avoid fevers when they rear their ugly heads. May they truly get in the bin.
All the best,