Fever is a part of the body's defense mechanism which indicates that the body is trying hard to fend off infections. Various diseases and illnesses exhibit the symptom 'fever'. Parents usually rush to the emergency department when their baby has fever. In most cases, fever is caused by bacterial or viral infections which are not serious.
Unless and until a baby has a persistent high fever like 105 ºF (40.5 ºC), fever is not considered as a life-threatening condition. Normal body temperature varies from person to person. So the temperature that can be described as 'fever' may also vary slightly from person to person. No single value can be specified as fever, unless it is quite high.
Common Causes of Fever in Infants and Children
Since the normal body temperature (measured orally) can be 98.2 ºF ± 1.3 (36.8 ºC ± 0.7); oral temperature above 99.5 ºF (37.5 ºC) is usually considered as 'fever'. Fever can be low-grade (less than 101 ºF) or high grade (over 104 ºF). These values may vary slightly if the fever in infants and adults is taken into consideration. Most bacteria and viruses can grow vigorously at 98.6 °F. Elevated body temperature helps kill these bacteria and viruses.
Infants, babies and toddlers are more likely to develop fever than grown up children and adults. Babies have a weaker immune system as compared to adults, and this makes them more susceptible to fever. Take a look at the list of common types of infections which can cause fever.
- Measles, chickenpox, etc.
- Ear Infections
- Skin infections
- Side effect of immunization
- Use of illicit drugs
- Excessive exposure to heat or cold
- Urinary tract infection which includes infection in kidneys, bladder, urethra, etc.
- Pneumonia or lung infection
- Respiratory tract infections like common cold and flu, sore throat, sinus infections, bronchitis, etc.
- Use of certain medications, for example, antibiotics, antihistamines and seizure medicines
- Viral or bacterial gastroenteritis (stomach flu), wherein inflammation of the stomach and intestines is noticed
- Bone infections (osteomyelitis), when infections spread to a bone through infected skin (due to injury), through blood or as a side effect of a surgery involving bone and nearby tissues
Persistent high fever, like fever over 105 °F can result in brain damage. Parents should keep in mind that a fever higher than 105 °F is very rare when caused by a common type of infection. If the baby is bundled in too many clothes or is placed in a hot place, then only the fever is likely to go over 105 °F. Babies or toddlers having very high fever may have seizures, but this does not mean that the baby has epilepsy. Symptoms of such febrile seizures go away quickly and do not cause any permanent harm.
Parents should not worry if the baby is showing interest in playing, eating and drinking. Giving prescribed medicines is very important. Never give over-the-counter medicines or medicines that are meant for adults. Light clothing and light-weight blankets while sleeping is enough for babies with fever. Babies should not be overdressed when they have fever. A lukewarm bath or sponge-bath helps lower the fever. Plenty of water and other healthy liquids like soups, should be given to babies when they are suffering from fever.
Common Causes of Fever in Adults
The above mentioned causes are also applicable to adults. Bacterial and viral infections can cause fever in adults. For example, high fever during typhoid, dengue or malaria. Adults with a compromised immune system are more likely to suffer from frequent fever. People diagnosed with diabetes are prone to infections. They should take proper care to prevent infections. Blood clots or thrombophlebitis (swelling of a vein due to a blood clot) can exhibit a symptom like fever. Constant or relapsing fever can be a symptom of cancer as well. People diagnosed with arthritis often suffer from fever and joint pain. Certain allergies can cause fever, headache, stomach pain and skin rash.
Apart from this, a woman may notice slightly elevated temperature during the second part of her menstrual cycle. Exhaustion due to excessive physical activity or mental stress can also cause fever. The Use of certain medications can raise your body temperature. Heavy clothing, high room temperature, and high humidity, are also some of the common causes of elevated body temperature.
It is just impossible to include all common causes of fever in children and adults in one article, as there exist hundreds of causes. Though, I hope you found the above information helpful. The pattern of fever and other physical symptoms exhibited by your body, help diagnose the actual disease you are suffering from. You should see your doctor immediately if the fever is high and constant, and if it is followed by symptoms like nausea, vomiting, headache, inflammation; changed color of skin, tongue, lips and nails; difficulty in urination, etc. In most cases, sufficient rest and proper medication helps get rid of the fever.