Fever: how to cool down when you heat up

How to cure fever

What’s a fever, really? At its simplest, it is a condition when your body temperature rises above its normal level of about 37°C.

A fever is a sign that the body is fending off an infection or fighting some kind of illness. You can develop a fever from both bacterial and viral infections.

While fever symptoms can leave you feeling miserable, a low fever is usually no cause for alarm.

Most fevers generally resolve themselves in a matter of a few days.

Fever symptoms are usually the result of a bacterial or viral infection

Fever is a common symptom of bacterial and viral infections, and also in case of common cold, flu and urinary tract infections.

In addition to elevated body temperature, fever often causes symptoms like sweating, shivering, chattering of the teeth, headache, flushed or sweaty skin, aching muscles, dizziness and weakness.

Not all fevers are caused by an infection. Fever can also be caused by reactions to medicines or immunisations.

How fever fights infection

If you have a fever, it means that your body is fighting an infection.

Your body temperature is controlled by the hypothalamus in your brain. This part of the brain functions like a thermostat for the body – when you are healthy, the hypothalamus sets your body to a normal temperature of about 37°C.

But when you contract an infection, your immune system releases chemicals that make the hypothalamus reset your body to an elevated temperature. As a result, you begin to feel cold, and you begin to shiver. You will now feel like wearing warm clothing. When you do, your body temperature rises to an even higher setting.

This rise in body temperature helps to fight off the bacteria and viruses that cause infection.

When is a high temperature too high?

Your normal body temperature is in the 36 - 37°C range, though this can vary from person to person, and also based on the time of day and the current weather.

When your body temperature exceeds 37°C, you can begin to experience the symptoms of a fever.

There are practical ways to reduce a fever

Try this to relieve the discomfort caused by fever:

  • Get enough rest
  • Drink a lot of water to stay hydrated
  • Avoid eating heavy meals and drinking tea or coffee
  • Keep your body cool by wearing light clothes
  • Place a cool washcloth against your forehead
  • Take a fever reducing medicine

Signs you should see a doctor

Most fevers are quite harmless and they go away after a couple of days.

Seek immediate medical advice if you experience any of the following:

  • Body temperature of 40°C or higher
  • Fever that does not improve or reduce after three days
  • Feeling drowsy or confused/delirious
  • Experiencing symptoms such as hallucinations, vomiting, stiffness, skin rash, rapid heartbeat, chills or muscle spasms
  • Severe pain in your body (including a severe headache)
  • Swelling or inflammation in the body
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Pain while urinating or foul-smelling urine
  • A skin rash that does not fade or reduce