Causes of Fever

Fever is actually a defense mechanism of body against infection. By raising body temperature (fever), body tries to get rid of various infections. Fever occurs when the “thermostat” of body, which is located in hypothalamus of brain, shifts the set point of body temperature regulation upward. The set point of body temperature regulation is shifted upwards due to presence of certain chemicals (e.g. inflammatory mediators), which are generally secreted by body in response to infection. When this happens, the person feel chilled and may be accompanied by shivering, as we see in high fever.

Fever is generally caused by:

  • Infection (commonly by virus and bacteria)
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Sunburn, when extreme sunburn occurs fever may develop
  • Tumor (malignant or cancerous)
  • Certain medications may cause rise in body temperature such as antibiotics, medications used for treatment of seizure or hypertension
  • Certain vaccines (such as triple vaccine DaPT-diphtheria, acellular pertussis and tetanus and pneumococcal vaccine)
  • Certain inflammatory conditions such as arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis) can cause fever or rise in body temperature
  • Many a times, the cause of fever cannot be identified despite extensive examination and tests. If you have fever for more than 3 weeks and your doctor is not able to identify the cause despite extensive tests, it is termed as fever of unknown origin (FUO) and FUO is a fairly common condition.

What are complications of fever?

Fever may give rise to following complications:

  • Febrile seizure (seizure induced by fever seen in small percentage of children age 6 months to five years)
  • Dehydration
  • Hallucination

Febrile seizure:

Febrile seizure occurs in small percentage of children in the age group of 6 months to five years. Once, the child crosses five years of age the problem usually disappear by itself. However, children suffering from febrile seizure are at higher risk of developing epilepsy in later years. Hence, it is important to treat children with febrile seizure promptly whenever they develop fever, by use of antipyretic medications and by other methods to lower raised body temperature.

Febrile seizure usually involve loss of consciousness and shaking of limbs. If your child develops such seizure during fever, lay your child on his/her side, hold your child to prevent any injury, remove any hard or sharp object from nearby. Once the child becomes conscious again, treat fever promptly.

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