A fever is a condition in which the temperature of the body rises above 38°C. It can be seen with any infection and is a sign of the body’s immune system fighting the invading organisms.
Often, it is difficult to tell if one is suffering from a severe cold or the flu and having a fever usually suggests that you are suffering from the flu rather than a cold. This can cause you to experience alternating bouts of chills and sweating.
The influenza virus loves a temperature of 37.5°C which happens to be the normal body temperature. As the immune system attempts to kill the virus and prevent it from multiplying, it raises the normal body temperature to place the virus outside of optimal conditions. This makes it easier for the immune system cells to rid the body of infection.
Chills commonly accompany fever. These are episodes of feeling cold and shivery. With a fever, your brain convinces your body that its temperature should be higher than it is. This means that although you are warmer than normal, you feel cold and shivery in the same way as going out in the winter without a jacket on.
Sweating often occurs in the later stages of a fever. This is the body’s attempt to reduce the body temperature again. However, with the brain sending conflicting messages about the temperature the body should be at, this is often why we feel hot and cold.
A fever is part of the immune system’s natural defence against viral infections, and it is for this reason that trying to get rid of the fever as soon as possible isn’t always a good idea. Equally, however, the old advice of ‘sweat out a fever’ is not going to return you to full health and fitness more quickly.
Instead, you should try to feel as comfortable as possible. Having a bath of tepid water may ease your discomfort, or placing a damp towel on your forehead. The water should not be cold, as this will cause you to shiver, in turn, raising your temperature further.
Rest as much as possible, as this will encourage your temperature to regulate. Also ensure that you are not becoming dehydrated, as you will lose a lot of water through sweating with a fever.
Herbal remedies can help to address the underlying viral infection by strengthening and supporting your immune system to help you fight off the viral infection.
The Echinacea plant has traditional use in helping to support the immune system. Fresh extracts can be found in licensed herbal remedy Echinaforce® Echinacea, which can be taken in tablet or tincture form.
Unless the fever is particularly bad, a doctor is likely to suggest that you treat the fever with home remedies, as it is likely to subside within a day or two. However, should it last longer than this, or your temperature becomes higher than 39°C, he may suggest that you take paracetemol or aspirin to help lower your temperature.
If you are struggling to fight off the flu infection, anti-viral medications, notably Oseltamivir and Zanamivir, may be prescribed. However, you should discuss the possible side-effects of this treatment with your doctor.
As a preventative measure against the flu, the annual flu jab is often recommended, particularly for vulnerable groups, including the elderly and pregnant. While this may cause a slight fever, and other side-effects, these should ease relatively quickly.