In most cases, a fever doesn’t pose a serious risk, and it should clear within a day or two. However, sometimes a fever can take longer to clear, posing serious health complications like brain damage. So, how long do fevers take and when should you see a doctor? In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about fever and how it should take.
What Causes a Fever?
First, it’s important to understand that a fever is a physiological condition that occurs when your body temperature rises above the normal range. In most cases, a rise in body temperature indicates the presence of an underlying health problem. The elevated body temperature is a sign of your body trying to fight off an infection.
There’s a section of your brain called the hypothalamus, which serves as your body’s thermostat. This part of your brain helps to regulate your body temperature, keeping it at 98.6 degrees. When harmful microbes get into your body, your hypothalamus raises your body temperature to prevent the microbes from surviving and multiplying in your body.
Therefore, a fever is a good sign to the extent that your body can fight off infections naturally. However, it becomes a problem when it’s too high that it poses the risk of brain damage and other serious health complications. So many things can cause your body temperature to rise above the normal range, including viruses, fungi, bacteria, drugs, and contaminants.
Most of these cases usually start with a low-grade fever that progresses over time to become high-grade fever. Several medical conditions can cause a high-grade fever including thyroid storm, sepsis, intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding inside the brain), heatstroke, drug overdose, serotonin syndrome, Kawasaki syndrome, and neuroleptic malignant syndrome.
A high-grade fever can become worse if your body is unable to fight off the microbes or you don’t get the right treatment. Therefore, it’s good to get your fever treated as soon as possible.
How Long Do Fevers Last?
As mentioned above, fever occurs when your body tries to fight off an infection or a foreign body. Therefore, it should be a temporary condition that goes away after a short while. However, sometimes the situation can get worse instead of improving. In that case, you should see a medical doctor immediately.
Normally, a fever should go away without treatment within a few days as your body continues to fight off the infection of foreign elements. Under normal circumstances, a fever shouldn’t last for more than three days. If it does, you should see a doctor immediately. It could be a sign of a serious medical condition that warrants your doctor’s attention.
You should also see your doctor immediately if your fever hits over 102 degrees or presents serious symptoms such as discomfort, diarrhea, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, or ear pain. In this case, your doctor will do a blood test, chest x-ray, and other critical tests to determine the cause.
Please remember that a prolonged fever can cause serious damage to critical body organs like your brain, heart, kidneys, and cardiovascular system.
5 Types of Fevers
Since there are different causes of fevers, it’s difficult to categorize the different types of fevers. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that different types of fevers are measured by the level of your body temperature and how long they last. Here are the five main types of fevers:
• Intermittent fever: This type of fever presents fluctuating body temperature levels throughout the day. With this type of fever, your body temperature fluctuates between normal and fever levels.
• Remittent fever: This fever also presents fluctuating body temperature levels throughout the day and can be on and off. But in this case, your body temperature doesn’t fall to the normal level.
• Continuous fever: This type of fever is also referred to as a sustained fever. It’s a prolonged fever without any fluctuations in body temperature levels.
• Hectic fever: A hectic fever usually occurs when an intermittent fever or a remittent fever causes your body temperature levels to fluctuate widely with a difference of more than 14 degrees above or below the normal temperature.
• Relapsing: This type of fever keeps recurring after a few days of normal body temperature. It’s normal with infections such as malaria and other animal bites.
Common Symptoms of Fever
As mentioned above, a fever is an increase in your body temperature above normal levels. Also, there are two main categories of fevers: a mild fever and a high-grade fever. Each of these categories may present some unique symptoms. But regardless of the type of fever you have, you are likely to experience the following symptoms:
• Loss of appetite
• General weakness
• Chills and shivering
• Muscle aches
Children below the age of 6 years are likely to experience febrile seizures, especially when they have a high-grade fever. When a child experiences one febrile seizure, it’s almost certain that they will have another one within a year. Sometimes mild fevers can only be detected by checking your body temperature with a thermometer.
When Should You Be Worried About a Fever?
Although fevers aren’t a cause for alarm, sometimes you need to seek immediate medical care to prevent serious complications arising from a prolonged fever. Here are some of the instances where you should have your fever checked by a medical doctor.
• You need emergency care if your fever is accompanied by any of these symptoms:
• Severe headache
• Convulsions or seizures
• Skin rash
• Abdominal pain or pain when urinating
• Mental confusion
• Strange sensitivity to bright light
• Stiff neck or neck pain
• Persistent vomiting
• Difficulty breathing or chest pain
Fevers in children can be frightening and devastating, especially if the child is not old enough to tell you how they feel. However, if your child has a fever but is responding to your voice and facial expression as well as taking fluids and playing, there shouldn’t be any cause for alarm. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t hesitate to take your child to the hospital if they show any of these signs:
• A fever that lasts for more than three days
• Poor eye contact with you
Please note that any unexplained fever in your infant should be a major cause for alarm. So, take him or her to the hospital immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:
• Rectal temperature of above 100.4 F (child younger than 3 months)
• Rectal temperature of above 102 F (child younger than six months)
• Rectal temperature of above 102 F that lasts longer than 24 hours (child younger than 2 years)
• Treatment for Fever
As noted above, fevers are not always bad because they show that your body is busy trying to fight off infection naturally. But does this mean that you shouldn’t treat your fever? If your immunity is uncompromised, you should wait a few days to see if the fever will go away on its own.
But if you are immunocompromised or undergoing chemotherapy, it’s important to have your fever treated. Sometimes your doctor will only advise you to rest and take enough fluids to help your body fight off the infection, especially if it’s a mild fever.
But if your fever is accompanied by other serious symptoms such as a headache, shortness of breath, or a stiff neck, they may recommend some over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin among others.