Our Fever Main Article provides a comprehensive look at the who, what, when and how of Fever
Definition of Fever
Fever: Although a fever technically is any body temperature above the normal of 98.6 degrees F. (37 degrees C.), in practice a person is usually not considered to have a significant fever until the temperature is above 100.4 degrees F (38 degrees C.).
Fever is part of the body's own disease-fighting arsenal: rising body temperatures apparently are capable of killing off many disease- producing organisms. For that reason, low fevers should normally go untreated, although you may need to see your doctor to be sure if the fever is accompanied by any other troubling symptoms. As fevers range to 104 degrees F and above, however, there can be unwanted consequences, particularly for children. These can include delirium and convulsions. A fever of this sort demands immediate home treatment and then medical attention. Home treatment possibilities include the use of aspirin or, in children, non-aspirin pain-killers such as acetaminophen, cool baths, or sponging to reduce the fever while seeking medical help. Fever may occur with almost any type of infection of illness. The temperature is measured with a thermometer.
Fever has been used as a tool to treat disease by deliberately raising the temperature of the patient's body. Fever therapy was pioneered by the Austrian neuropsychiatrist Julius Wagner von Jauregg (1857-1940). He inoculated malaria into his patients with dementia paralytica, the third and final stage of syphilis when it affects the nervous system and brain; the patients not surprisingly developed a high fever; and the fever halted the relentless course of the syphilis. "For his discovery of the therapeutic value of malaria inoculation in the treatment of dementia paralytica" Wagner von Jauregg received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1927.
Induced-fever therapy is rarely, if ever, employed today. However, sometimes a patient with a very high fever from an infection upon recovery from the infection enters into a most improbable remission from an unrelated disease or is even cured of it! (This writer has cared for two such remarkable patients.)
Also called pyrexia.
Last Editorial Review: 4/27/2011 5:27:15 PM
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