Fever, when explained in layman language, is nothing but a rise in the temperature of the body. In most cases, it indicates that something is amiss in the body. The normal temperature of the human body is 37 degree Celsius (98.6 degree Fahrenheit). Fever is nothing but a nuisance for adults, unless it rises to 39.4 C (102.92 F) or higher. But when it comes to kids, a slight rise in their body temperature, is potent enough to create serious complications, if left untreated. Generally, for kids below 5 years, 37.5 C (99.5 F) is considered as high fever, and so is 38 C (100.4 F), for kids over 5 years. However, at the same time, it is also important to know that the degree of fever is not always proportional to the severity of the underlying condition. Medical experts have observed that someone with a high fever gets diagnosed by a mild condition, while a person who has a low-grade fever, is found to be actually suffering from a serious condition.
Complications of High Fever
The side effects of high fever are more alarming in small children. A common complication that is diagnosed in a small percentage of children, mostly between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, is what is known as febrile seizures. It is also known as febrile convulsions, or fever-induced seizure. It gets triggered due to sudden rise in the body temperature, which is usually caused by an infection. An obvious symptom of this side effect is a fever that may go higher than 38.9 C (102.02 F). Apart from this, other classic and obvious symptoms are involuntary shaking or jerking of the limbs on both sides of the body, and the body becoming stiff. Losing consciousness and bowel control, and rolling of the eyes back in the head are the other important symptoms that may indicate that the high fever has progressed to febrile convulsions. Difficulty in breathing, vomiting, and occurrence of foam in the mouth may also accompany.
It is most likely that, these side effects caused by febrile convulsions, may seem to be alarmingly dangerous to parents. However, in most cases, it is not. Reports say, a fever-induced seizure is typically harmless, and unlikely to trigger a long-term problem in the patient. And that is why, it is recommended for parents to take their child immediately to a pediatrician after the seizures have stopped, so that the underlying cause can be determined.
Adults are typically more resistant against high fever unlike children and infants. And they do not suffer from anything such as fever-induced seizure, as described above. However, if their fever is accompanied by severe swelling of the throat, skin rash for no apparent reason, pain and stiffness in the neck, increased sensitivity to bright light, chest pain, and difficulty breathing, then immediate medical attention must be sent for. Also, if severe headache, extreme irritable behavior, confusion, pain while urinating, and persistent vomiting, accompany high fever, then it might indicate that the situation is critically serious, and requires medical intervention.
Common Causes of High Fever
Most cases of fever or high fever are associated to one or the other kind of bacterial or viral infection. But when infections are not the culprits, factors such as exhaustion from heat, sunburn, certain medications, and immunizations may come in the picture. Although rare, kidney cancers are also known to trigger high fever, and so do rheumatoid arthritis.
It is important to know that if the causal factor of a high fever is a viral infection, then a wait-and-watch approach is advised. Viral infections remain unaffected by antibiotics, but at the same time are self resolving. Taking adequate rest, and drinking plenty of fluids are good enough for reducing the symptoms. And if bacterial infection is the case, then antibiotics are the first line of treatment.