The human body has a normal core temperature of 37.0 degrees centigrade or 98.6 degrees fahrenheit. Any variation in this core figure implies that something is amiss. Fever is a protective mechanism of the body-the body’s response to tissue injury.
Causes and Symptoms of Fever
Fever may be caused by infections, mechanical trauma, anemia, heart attack, stroke, hemorrhage, certain metabolic ic disorders, arthritic conditions, drug reaction, immune dysfunction or cancer. In fact, anything wrong with the body will trigger this reaction, initiated in a centre located in the hypothalamic region of the brain, called the thermo- regulatory centre. Essentially, fever is a protective mechanism of the body and is actually the beginning of the healing process, carried out by the body’s defence mechanisms, rather than a symptom. It helps mobilise the white blood cells of the blood, to actually destroy the invader, and either engulf and ingest it or carry away the debris of destruction, for removal by the kidney. White blood cells or WBC’s also form a protective screen by the release of antibodies to counter a subsequent attack.
Usually fever, or pyrexia as it is known in medical terms, is a manifestation of a disordered state in the body, yet there are some normal physiological periods in the body’s rhythm when a variation in core body temperature may occur. These are periods following vigorous exercise, the latter half of the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. The normal temperature also varies at different times of the day. It is slightly higher during times of physical activity, and lowest during sleep. Just before the menstrual flow begins, the temperature falls a little, and still further, by as much as a degree, 24-36 hours before ovulation occurs, Le., between two menstrual flow cycles. After ovulation has occurred, it goes up a little and maintains the same level till the beginning of the next flow. The normal body temperature may also rise a little on an exceptionally hot day.
Rise in temperature indicates bodily dysfunction or disorder. Most viral fevers are self-limiting and rarely last more than 3-4 days, e. g., influenza and common cold. Fevers lasting more than a week are caused by less common infections and are likely to be bacterial in nature, e. g., a fever of a duration of more than five days, which rises and falls daily, but never reaches baseline, is likely to be typhoid or paratyphoid. A fever persistently hovering above normal, but never really high enough to need a doctor, may be of tubercular origin, or due to an undiagnosed neo plastic growth. Very high swings in temperature, accompanied by chills and rigors, with the fever abruptly falling, with sweating, may point towards malaria. Febrile states alternating with febrile or no-fever states, the intervals being 1-2 days, may also be due to lesser-known infections of the Borrelia species.
Most fevers caused by seasonal, mild viral infections can be safely handled at home. However, there are some mild, undiagnosed, low-grade fevers which occur in young women, which do respond to home remedies, but recur again and again. These do not have a disturbing general state accompanying them. Watch out for them, as they may well be the sporadic sub-clinical signs of underlying urinary-tract infection. High fevers cause dehydration-the excessive sweating causes loss of salt, water and vital electrolytes. Fevers higher than 40 degrees centigrade may cause mental confusion, twitching, tremors, delirium and convulsions.
Types of Fever
1. Bed Rest
Rest a fever is an oft-forgotten piece of advice from grandmother. In a fever, the body’s defence mechanisms come into play and need a helping hand.
2. Cold Compress
Fever should be suppressed only if it goes above 39 degrees centigrade or 101 degrees fahrenheit. If the fever is high, apply cold compresses on the forehead, and sponge the whole body with tepid water. You can add a few drops of eu de cologne, lavender leaves, or a gentle soothing perfume to the water used. This takes away the sour smell of fever. Do not bring down the temperature rapidly, as this confuses the body’s temperature regulating centre, causing the body to go into shock. This can be dangerous.
Fevers caused by gastro-intestinal problems and respiratory infections respond well to a teaspoonful of turmeric powder added to a glass of hot milk with sugar to taste. If there is also constipation, add a teaspoon of hot ghee (clarified butter), stir it well, and while it is still quite hot, drink it in one go. Turmeric has a tendency to settle down in the tumbler, so if you want to sip this drink, keep stirring it. The medicament in the turmeric should get into your system and not remain as dregs at the bottom of the cup!
4. Bael Sherbet
Patients with diarrhea, dysentery, and fever, especially those occurring in summer, should be given bael sherbet, alternating it with the holy basil fever potion. This is prepared by mixing the pulp of three ripe bael fruits in two glasses of water. Add sugar to taste. Adult dose: four tablespoonful 3-4 times a day. Give the patient plenty of water to drink, spaced out in between these periods.
Take a handful of crushed fresh mint leaves, 2-3 black peppercorns, 2-3 long peppers, a one-fourth-inch piece of ginger, ground to a fine paste. Boil it in two cups of water. Once it comes to the boil, simmer it for 12-15 minutes. The cooled, filtered mixture, divided into three doses and sipped as a herbal tea, gives relief in fevers associated with” gastro-intestinal disorders.
6. Fenugreek Tea
Half a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds, boiled with a cupful of water, cooled, and flavored with a teaspoon of lemon juice with honey/sugar added to taste, removes the foul sour taste in the mouth and the unpleasant body odour associated with some fevers.
7. Lemon Grass Tea
Lemon-grass tea, with honey to taste, is a refreshing remedy for fever.
8. Sandalwood Paste
In high fever, the application of cool sandalwood paste on the forehead brings the temperature down, just like a cold compress does.